On the eve of its trip to a national tournament, the members of Lanakila Volleyball Academy certainly know what to expect.
Lanakila will compete in USA Volleyball's 33rd annual girls junior national championships next week in Columbus, Ohio, the same tournament it played in last year.
The team will play in the 17-year old division - in 2011, Lanakila got a tough test, taking part in the 18 age bracket, but that experience could prove valuable.
Sienna Davis is a captain for Lanakila Volleyball Academy, which is headed to USA Volleyball’s 33rd annual girls junior national championships, and one of 22 players selected for a junior national team that will also play later next month.
HOKU KRUEGER photo
"We actually came home from last year's tournament and were able to adjust in all the areas that we needed strengths in," said Lanakila coach Gimi Thibodeaux. "Every time we go to a tournament it's always, 'OK, we have to work on this.' "
This year, Lanakila placed second in its division in a qualifying tournament in Hilo, earning a spot in the national field of 48 teams. The club will leave for Ohio on Saturday, and play gets under way Tuesday.
Lanakila has players from multiple schools, and began practicing together after the high school season ended in November.
"It's really fun playing with girls that we don't normally play with because they bring together all the schools that they learned from and it makes all of us better," said Leimana Kane, a senior-to-be at Kamehameha Schools Maui.
The tournament can be especially valuable for players seeking to compete in college.
"Preparing for the tournament on the Mainland, you have to get into the mindset that there's going to be colleges ready to recruit you. You have to change the way you act on the court," said recent Lahainaluna High School graduate Kulia Murray.
One player sure to get attention from college recruiters is rising Kamehameha senior Sienna Davis, who was selected for the USA Volleyball Women's Junior A2 roster. A captain of the Lanakila girls 17 team, she is among 22 players born in either 1994 or 1995 who will compete in the High Performance Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Sienna has great potential and she uses that to her advantage," Thibodeaux said. "She's a real pleasure to coach and a good leader."
The Junior A2 program begins with training sessions on July 19. The athletes will then be split into tiered teams and compete against American and international teams.
"I hope to become more knowledgeable and I guess get used to playing with different players, kind of like how it will be for college. I just hope to play well and do my best," Davis said.