Kalei Adolpho and Ginger Long have been linked together since their freshman year in high school, in 2007. They have been foes, they are friends and they are teammates.
Friday night, for the first time, they are likely to play together for the University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball team.
Adolpho, the first female Molokai High School graduate to garner an NCAA Division I athletic scholarship and The Maui News 2011 Maui Interscholastic League Girl Athlete of the Year, is coming off a freshman season in which she played in 25 matches.
She is the third-leading returning blocker on the team and will start at middle blocker when the No. 8-ranked Wahine open their season Friday night against Albany at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I think going into last year, I didn't really know what to expect," Adolpho said via phone on Tuesday. "I was kind of more unsure than anything. Now, I'm excited. This year I know what to expect and I am just three times more excited."
Long, a Kamehameha Maui graduate and second-team Under Armour All-American in 2011, is coming off a redshirt season indoors and a sand season in the spring where she compiled a 14-9 record. The Albany match has been on her mind for some time.
Women's college volleyball on TV
5 p.m.-Stanford vs. St. Mary's, OCSP
7 p.m.-Albany at Hawaii, OCSP
5 p.m.-Stanford vs. Albany, OCSP
7 p.m.-St. Mary's at Hawaii, OCSP
5 p.m.-St. Mary's vs. Albany, OCSP
7 p.m.-Stanford at Hawaii, OCSP
"I'm super excited for Friday night, you know, first game, showing everybody what our team has been working on," Long said Wednesday. "Anything that I can do to contribute to our team's success, I am just excited."
Coach Dave Shoji said this is the first time that two MIL graduates have played for him on scholarship.
"I think there is talent everywhere now," Shoji said. "Girls are exposed to club volleyball and are able to play at a really high level, not only in the state, but on the Mainland. There are club teams from Maui that go out and play, so there will be more outer island athletes not only in volleyball, but in other sports here at UH."
Adolpho starred on a Division II state championship basketball team for the Farmers in 2009, led a state volleyball championship team in 2010, was a two-time state medalist in the 800 meters on the track, and capped her prep career with a state high jump title in 2011.
"Kalei played some quality minutes last year and her game is better this year," Shoji said. "I'm sure she'll see some significant time this time around."
Adolpho followed her volleyball season with basketball, a rare double for any NCAA Division I athlete.
"She is a special athlete and special person to be able to do both sports at Division I, so we are happy to have her and basketball will be happy to have her at the end of December," Shoji said.
Adolpho is still developing in her volleyball game, a sport she began playing as a freshman in high school. She is in a four-way battle for playing time at middle blocker.
"She is very raw still, but she possesses great athletic ability," Shoji said. "She is just real physical. It is just a matter of time before she figures everything out. I'm hoping that she will make progress again this year. By the time she is a junior and senior, she will be one of the better players in the country if she just maintains normal progress.
"She will start Friday night and I'm hoping that she will play well enough to keep that position by the end of the match and by the end of the weekend."
Long is more of an unknown, although the redshirt season clearly helped her progress. She is an outside hitter who will see time on the left side. She is listed at 5-foot-11, but said herself she is "5-9 or 5-10; I'm probably the shortest hitter on our entire team."
"I think it helped Ginger, she needed a year of polishing her skills," Shoji said of the redshirt season. "She is just a great kid, hard worker, she has improved. Her problem is she is behind a lot of good players. I just don't know how much playing time she will get this year based on who is ahead of her right now."
UH will play Saint Mary's on Saturday and finish their opening weekend with a match against sixth-ranked Stanford on Sunday.
"We haven't had a match in I don't know how long and just to be back in the arena, back with the fans, the crowd, the lights and all that, it is really exciting to get started again," Adolpho said.
Both MIL alumni are rooting for each other.
"She has made such a big improvement," Adolpho said of Long. "She has gotten a lot stronger, she is quicker, she has just become an overall better player."
Long said of Adolpho, "It just shows that there is talent on Maui. I mean, Kalei did amazing last year and she is going to do even better this year. She keeps improving, so it just shows that you can't gloss over Maui. We definitely understand each other."