Teamwork Is The Secret To Aiea Team’s Volleyball Success

The ability to manage the ebb and flow of a match can make or break a volleyball team.

For the Aiea High boys team, that hasn’t been an issue this spring.

Indeed, as Na Ali’i prepare for next week’s Division II state tournament, longtime head coach Erin Okamoto-Coker likes her team’s capacity for handling the moment.

“We did team bonding (exercises) at the beginning of the season, and now they’ve gelled,” she said. “They come together and can play each other out of the quicksand.

“That’s something that we haven’t had here lately. They don’t give up.

Motivation comes from within, and that’s up to them.”

Okamoto-Coker and company will look to close out one of the best seasons in the program’s history at states. Aiea took an 8-4 record into the OIA Division II title game late last week against Kailua, a match that also marked Aiea’s first-ever appearance on statewide television.

Heading into the OIA final, all four of its 2014 losses had come to DI teams.

Okamoto-Coker attributed the team’s blossoming to the play of her senior class.

“Kama (Obrero), Kealii (Leopoldo) and Zach (Barte) have played for me all four years, and they’ve each come into their own,” she said.

The three serve as team captains, along with senior Perritte Togafau.

“Perritte’s strength is his hitting,” said Okamoto-Coker. “Kealii brings calm to the team – he doesn’t get easily excited. Kama is the sparkplug and our Duracell battery. Zach is like Kama – he’s one of the calm ones on the team.”

Senior middle blocker Aaron Vaiagae, who transferred from Mililani High during the off-season, also has become an impact player for Aiea, according to the coach.

“He’s high energy – he’s the leaper on the team.”

Depth also has played a part. Reserves Kaohi Bautista, Ford Nakagawa, Travis Hauki, Eldon Nakagawa, Tano Tedtaotao, Nick Jack, Jantzen Shinmoto, Alesana Vaiagae, Anthony Jones and Anetelea Moli all have logged big minutes, especially in the OIA tourney.

“We dig deep into our bench,” Okamoto-Coker said. “We’ve played almost every player because of injuries or because we’re trying to find people to do a job or who are in sync. All of them are all-around players.

“We’re not a big team or a tall team,” she added. “Our passing and our defense are our strengths. We work every day on our passing – at the beginning of practice and at the end.”

Next week will mark Aiea’s third state tournament appearance during the Okamoto-Coker era, but the first since 2007.

“We have to keep working together and be focused on each game, one game at a time. The boys haven’t been in the limelight before.

“We have to keep the same outlook (of the regular season) and focus on the same things.”