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Hawaiian Style 14s prepare for trip to junior nationals

The Hawaiian Style Volleyball Club’s 14s team — (from left) Ariana Naipo, Alohalani Chun, Amanda Naipo, Archer Fabrao, Keani Domingo, Natronai Anana, Ku‘uleimokihana Manaois and Lilinoe Paschoal — pose for a photo during practice Thursday. The team is set to compete in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship in Las Vegas next week. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photos

The Hawaiian Style Volleyball Club’s 14s team has already overcome tough COVID-19 restrictions to capture a gold at a high-level tournament.

Next week, the eight-player team from three Maui schools will step up to a higher level at the 64-team USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship in Las Vegas, set for June 26-29.

“We’re bringing it home, no matter what, that’s what I’m saying,” said Natronai Anana, a rising freshman at Baldwin High School. “I feel that our team has the potential and it’s all about guts.”

They earned their way there by finishing first among 69 teams in their division at the No Dinx/NCVA Far Western National Qualifier in April in Reno, Nev.

“Honestly, it’s a huge honor to be able to represent the island and the state,” Anana said. “Going up there, we’re representing home, our family and then for me, I’m representing God when I go up there.”

Chun, an incoming freshman at Kamehameha Schools Maui, prepares to dig the ball during a drill.

The team is made up of five incoming freshmen for Baldwin, one eighth grader and one freshman from Kamehameha Maui, and one freshman from King Kekaulike. Prior to the qualifying tournament, they had to practice mostly on the grass at Keopuolani Park.

Things have gotten a little bit better since then as they have managed to find indoor space across the island.

Coach Al Paschoal requested that the venues not be disclosed because of the continuing COVID restrictions — they practiced at a non-gym facility in Wailuku on Wednesday.

“We found a place to practice that’s inside and away from the elements, which was really killing us,” Paschoal said. “We actually played really good volleyball before we went up, but I think we’ve actually gotten better. There’s always something that is going to get under your skin and going to push your buttons.

“We just told the girls: ‘Do you want to play? Or do you want to stay home? Whatever the challenge is, we’ve got to find a way mentally to address it and to overcome it. Can’t look for excuses, but look for ways succeed.’ “

They played well to get out of the Reno event.

“There was one spot given away (at the qualifier) and the girls pulled it off,” Paschoal said.

The team leaves next Wednesday for a tournament they know will be a challenge.

“We are very excited,” said Lilinoe Paschoal, the setter and daughter of the head coach and assistant Sheryl Paschoal, who won two NAIA national titles at BYU-Hawaii.

The national tournament should be solid experience for the Maui Interscholastic League season that is tentatively set to begin in August or September. The practice on Wednesday was spirited.

“I feel like this is going to be higher competition, so I feel like it will be pretty good for high school,” Lilinoe Paschoal said. “I think that’ll be good for us.”

Former King Kekaulike standout Lauren Albrecht, who is headed to Fairmont State University in West Virginia on a volleyball scholarship in the fall; former Kamehameha Maui All-American Ginger Long, who played indoor and beach at the University of Hawaii; former MIL Player of the Year Treyanna Freitas, who played one season at Washington State; and former MIL All-Star Breanna Rodrigues have all spent time at practice to help sharpen the younger players’ skills.

“We have some ghosts of winter past helping us out,” Al Paschoal said. “Whatever we can do to make sure the girls are training at a high level.”

The coach is excited about the possibilities at the national event.

“They’re playing a fantastic brand of volleyball right now,” Paschoal said. “This group has been together for a little while and they are scrappy as heck, you gotta love it, but they want to compete, they always want to compete.”

The team comprises Anana, Lilinoe Paschoal, Keani Domingo, Ariana Naipo, Alohalani Chun, Amanda Naipo, Ku’uleimokihana Manaois and Archer Fabrao.

They have upped their practice schedule from two per week to four beginning last week.

“This Saturday is our last practice and then we leave — different places, so we’ve been fortunate,” Al Paschoal said. “People want to help the girls, so it has worked out. I think everybody is just looking for a little bit of loosening of the restrictions.

“The girls ask ‘Why can there be 1,000 people at Costco and we can’t have eight girls in the gym?’ So then you have to explain the them, but we’re ready to go.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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