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‘Young, Mysterious’ Kalaheo VB Team Hosts Tigers Sept. 6

With arguably the youngest team in the OIA East conference, Kalaheo entered the 2012 volleyball season as the “mystery team” in the league. Indeed, the Lady Mustangs were even a bit of a mystery to veteran head coach Roberta Downey in the early-going as well.

“We’re definitely young,” she said. “This is the first team I’ve had with only four seniors. We also have three juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen. With the exception of two seniors, most have not played together, so we’re trying to gel more right now.

“We need to learn to trust each other, which is something we talked about just last night,” she added. “Our new motto is ‘13 Strong’ — meaning 11 players and two coaches (on the same heartbeat). Practice has been going great.”

As in past years, the East schedule is unforgiving, as the Mustangs opened with Kaimuki and traditional power Kalani. An Aug. 30 game was to follow with Kaiser, while a road date at Roosevelt was on tap for Tuesday. Kalaheo will host McKinley at 7 p.m. Thursday in another key OIA East encounter.

On a positive note, while less seasoned than many of their league counterparts, Downey likes the skill level of her 11-member roster. “We have a talented group, and we’re going to learn to play more together as a group. What looks promising is that if we can keep the group together, we’ll be back stronger next year.”

Injuries also have undermined the Mustangs’ momentum in the early-going. During the team’s appearance at the Longy Okamoto Tournament recently, it lost four players to injuries. Three have since returned.

As they prepare for Thursday’s home date with McKinley, maximizing their offensive opportunities is among their priorities. “Our strength right now is definitely our serving,” Downey said. “When we keep our serves in, we do well. (Continuing to develop) our defense is the next step. It is a little bit of both (technique and the desire to defend well). We need to encourage each other more and play hard every point. We need to leave the court knowing we gave our all on the court.”

Kalaheo also will hold its “Spike For Troops” at the end of Thursday’s match. For $1, participants get to spike a pair of balls with the intent to land it on designated spots on the floor that will earn them a giveaway prize (shirts, towels, gift cards and gift certificates, etc.). All proceeds go to the Wounded Soldiers Fund.

“We cater to the military base, and we have a lot of kids whose parents are Marines,” Downey explained of her desire to set up the program.

Downey also is planning a Dodge Ball Fundraiser for the volleyball program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 15 at Kalaheo. Entry fee is $100 per team with a cash prize going to the winning team. Prospective teams can register by emailing downey4804@yahoo.com.