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Volleyball seniors thankful for ‘huge blessing’

Club tournament hosted by Maui Prep gives players sense of closure after season was canceled

Pueo Volleyball Club’s Jolene Munch goes up for a kill during a Pueo Volleyball Classic match Saturday at Bozich Center. The four-team club tournament gave several Maui Interscholastic League student-athletes the chance to play one last time with teammates after their season was canceled due to COVID-19. RAY CHIN photos

For 19 Maui Interscholastic League seniors, it was the chance to play volleyball one more time with their high school teammates.

The Pueo Volleyball Classic — a four-team girls club tournament — was won by the Lahaina Volleyball Club on Saturday at the Bozich Center gym on the Maui Preparatory Academy campus, and it was clearly a special day.

It was the first competitive action for most of the players in more than a year due to COVID-19 concerns and cancellations.

“For us it’s actually a pretty big blessing, you know COVID hit us hard, it hit everyone hard, so the fact that there’s an opportunity for the girls to even experience like a shred of court time and to be able to play is a huge blessing,” Lahaina coach Jordan Saribay said via phone on Saturday.

Shanelle Pasalo was one of three seniors on the Lahaina team, along with Jhene Saribay and Alexia Andaya.

Pueo Volleyball Club’s Sydney Snyder goes up to block a shot Saturday.

“Starting out as a freshman playing volleyball for Lahaina, I’ve always dreamt about playing my senior year, it’s what I’ve always looked forward to,” Pasalo said. “So just having this opportunity to play one more time with my teammates is a huge blessing for me. I lost my MIL season this year and I think that it’s just amazing that I get to play one more time.”

The tournament was put on by Maui Prep officials after they held a similar four-team boys basketball tournament in February.

“I definitely thought that this opportunity wouldn’t come along,” Pasalo said. “I’ve spent all year of my senior year wondering if I was going to have a season this year and when I heard they weren’t going to have an MIL season, that really bummed me out … and I’m just happy to have this opportunity to play with all the girls.”

Andaya plans to continue her career at Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash., and Saturday was an opportunity to prepare for that.

“It’s just great that I got that opportunity to continue playing,” Andaya said. “Very grateful because we haven’t played on a court for over a year. We’ve been practicing in the park on the grass — it’s not the same as playing on the court.”

Toa Siua was one of five seniors for the Mixed Plate team that was made up of St. Anthony students.

“When we found out we weren’t going to have a tournament this year we were really sad, but then we found out we were going to have the tournament and all of us got happy and we started practicing,” said Siua, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker. “It’s just nice to be on the court for one last time. … This was the best we’ve played out of the four years we’ve been playing.”

Kysha Valdez, Kassidy Rambaud, Tina Abrew and Keala Robell made up the rest of the Mixed Plate seniors. Siua and Abrew, the team captains, both plan to play club volleyball at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash.

Kaili Johnson, a guidance counselor at St. Anthony, stepped in to coach Mixed Plate so the team could participate in the tournament.

“At first we didn’t have anyone to help us run practices, so it was just us doing it,” Siua said. “(Johnson) came to one of the practices and she stuck to it. It’s nice to have somebody to guide us. She’s been playing this year with us, playing when we were practicing.”

Abrew, a 5-1 setter, is excited to join her classmate for college volleyball. One or both may try to walk on to the varsity team as sophomores.

“It’ll be interesting and fun,” Abrew said, adding, “I’m really grateful that we got to at least have this opportunity to play once in the tournament with each other since it’s our senior year.”

Jade Borchers was one of four seniors for the Haleakala Volleyball Club team that was made up of players from Haleakala Waldorf.

“It is really sad that it’s our last time because a lot of us have been playing together since, like, fifth grade,” Borchers said.

Fellow Haleakala Waldorf senior Mileina Sniffen was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, and father Scott Sniffen was there to coach his senior-laden team to a second-place finish in the event.

The foursome of seniors also included twins Lillian and Izabelle Palmore — they were freshmen on Haleakala Waldorf’s very first team in the MIL.

“I think our team has progressed and gotten so much better,” Lillian Palmore said. “We really wanted the opportunity to show that and play with our new incoming freshmen, who we really wanted to play with.”

Jolene Munch was one of seven seniors for the Pueo Volleyball Club that was made up mostly of Maui Prep students.

“I think we’re all just super thankful to be able to have held this event because it took a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of practices,” Munch said. “But it was definitely worth it to have closure as seniors and be able to play one last time altogether before we graduate.”

Ryan Kirkham, the MPA principal, is the coach for the school team and the club team. The other seniors were Lily Borland, Sydney Snyder, Jordy Houglum, Keeana Villamar, Charltyn Hannon and Hoku Godoy, a Lahainaluna senior who played for Pueo.

“What a great group of girls, I mean just a work-hard group, just a bunch of rock stars, great work ethic and man they have fun playing volleyball,” Kirkham said.

Keenan Reader, the Maui Prep athletic director and tournament director, said the event went well. All participants were tested for COVID before and after the event that was played in a bubble environment.

“Once again, really smooth thanks to the support of the mayor’s office and Doctors on Call getting us all the safety protocols in place,” Reader said. “It’s taken off without a hitch. And to frankly see the smiles on the girls’ faces in between points and at the end of the game has made all the work putting this together well worthwhile.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

*****

Pueo Volleyball Classic

Saturday’s Results

At Maui Prep

Lahaina Volleyball Club def. Pueo Volleyball Club 18-25, 25-22, 15-12

Haleakala Volleyball Club def. Mixed Plate 25-16, 25-19

Lahaina Volleyball Club def. Mixed Plate 25-18, 25-17

Haleakala Volleyball Club def. Pueo Volleyball Club 27-25, 25-19

Lahaina Volleyball Club def. Haleakala Volleyball Club 25-14, 25-18

Pueo Volleyball Club def. Mixed Plate 19-25, 25-14, 15-7

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