With bevy of All-Stars, Na Alii brimming with potential

King Kekaulike High School’s Kalena Vaivai puts away a second-set ball during Na Alii’s season-opening win over Baldwin on Tuesday night. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — The roster for King Kekaulike High School’s girls volleyball team reads like a reunion of the last couple Maui Interscholastic League All-Star teams.

Kalena Vaivai, the 2016 MIL Division I Player of the Year, is back as a senior setter/outside hitter after missing all of last season with a broken foot. Nina Macphetridge was a first-team All-Star last season, while Nanna Inoue and Lyric Love were each second-teamers.

Hana transfer Nohokula Lind was a first-team Division II MIL All-Star last season and Temahh Shaw was a second-team MIL All-Star in basketball last season after she sat out the volleyball season because of a transfer from Baldwin.

Na Alii opened MIL play Tuesday night with a convincing sweep of the Bears.

The team, like all others in the state, was not allowed to practice as schools were closed by Hurricane Lane starting Wednesday.

Montana DiSegna of King Kekaulike attempts a second-set kill against Baldwin’s Sienna DeCambra and Bryanna Yoshida on Tuesday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I’m not happy about that, for sure, because for us the most important day is the day after the game,” King Kekaulike coach Al Paschoal said. “That’s where we can break things down and see how we can get better.”

Last season, a loaded Na Alii roster lost Vaivai, Air Force signee Shaina Rapanot-Uyechi and St. Mary’s signee Chandler Cowell for large chunks of the season due to injury. Several other contributors also missed time banged up.

Now, the team is back, perhaps as strong as it ever has been.

“For the record, I hate talking that kind of stuff so early in the season, but the girls, they just keep amazing me every day in the gym,” Paschoal said. “They work harder and harder every single day. They’re putting in the work and I love to see that we’re in a good place.

“The physicality of the game is there for us — it can always get better — but mentally I’m happy where we are right now.”

King Kekaulike’s Temahh Shaw (right) and Kalena Vaivai defend a shot by Baldwin’s Daesha Soares on Tuesday night. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

It all starts with Vaivai, a 5-foot-10 Utah State verbal commit who broke her foot in the Iolani preseason tournament last year. She led Paschoal’s Hawaiian Style Volleyball Club to the gold medal in the SCVA Summer Soiree tournament in Anaheim, Calif., last month.

“I’ve been waiting forever and after I finally got fully recovered, I went back out for club and I got better throughout there,” Vaivai said. “Then I was just looking forward to my senior year.”

“Oh my goodness, it’s bittersweet, I get her (back) for one year and then she’s gone,” Paschoal said. “I wouldn’t want anything different this season — I mean, she’s our heart. So, to have her back is just something that I’m ecstatic about.”

Na Alii face a big test in their next scheduled match, a short trip across the highway to face defending league champion Kamehameha Maui on Tuesday.

Vaivai smiled when asked how good her team can be.

“We have a lot of potential, everyone on our team is very talented,” Vaivai said. “It’s just the beginning, we’re still evolving. We still have a lot to work on.”

Macphetridge, who has verbally committed to Alaska-Anchorage, agreed.

“We can be really good, but there’s no one bigger than the team,” Macphetridge said. “So, if we don’t play as a team we won’t play good. If we’re all together and we play like one, then we can be strong.”

Shaw, a junior whose older sister Dreanne Shaw played at Oregon State, said that being back on the volleyball court with this kind of team is special.

“The team is so talented, it’s easy playing with them,” Shaw said with a wide smile. “It makes my job way better. We all, like, just connect.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com