A new school year means a new season of girls volleyball is afoot. With four new freshmen joining the varsity squad to replace the five graduated seniors, this new season will bring new challenges.

Zoe Lorica, Jade Mauga, Hayley Taka, and Alyssa Young are the four freshmen who have joined the varsity team. Lorica, Mauga, and Taka each play middle, with Mauga specializing in the position and the latter two also playing outside hitter. Young plays setter.

At HBA, with four teams (two intermediate and two junior varsity) feeding the varsity roster, getting a spot on the varsity team is extremely competitive. These four freshmen have a combined 12 years of experience playing the sport, and all but Mauga, who is new to HBA, played on HBA’s intermediate teams.

Despite the prestige that comes with being freshman varsity players, the girls are humble, emphasizing that the coaches could have chosen a lot of other girls who are equally qualified. They are also grateful for the chance to play volleyball at a level they haven’t yet experienced. And though they do feel nervous, they are excited to rise to the occasion and improve their skills.

A dual athlete, playing forward and guard in basketball, Lorica’s height is mixed with serious athleticism and court vision. Lorica said of varsity play, “[It’s a lot] more serious and you can’t play around most of the time…The club teams are good but this level is more technical and has a lot of skill.” Lorica is also excited to meet new people on top of playing at a higher level.

Even though it may seem scary, everyone just wants to see you excel. As long as others see you trying, you will be able to succeed. – Alyssa Young (’22)

At 5’8”, Mauga is one of the teams tallest players. She mirrors Lorica’s sentiments and says that she values how the sport helps her to “[form] strong bonds [as well as learn] good volleyball skills.” Of varsity play, Mauga said, “There are a lot of consistent volleyball players in varsity that all play club and are good at their different positions.” Mauga has played middle for two years and also plays golf.

Taka, like Lorica, is also a forward in basketball. This year Taka looks to gain “a closer relationship to all the older varsity players on [the] team.” Looking ahead to the season, Taka said, “The varsity level is very new to me because [it is played at] a much faster tempo. Also, the girls are [much more] skilled than me so it pushes me to become a better player.”

Young has been the setter for Maunalani Volleyball Club for the past year and says that volleyball is more than just an athletic activity. “[It helps me] get to know my fellow teammates and to be a part of something bigger than myself,” she explained. Young also looks forward to varsity play, saying, “Even though it may seem scary, everyone just wants to see you excel. As long as others see you trying, you will be able to succeed.”

The Lady Eagles’ head coach, Myles Shioji, will have 13 seasons under his belt this year with four Division 2 State Championships to his name. Three of these wins were consecutive—from 2007 to 2009—when Sarah Palmer (‘09) reigned as queen of the court. Palmer is perhaps the most decorated athlete to come from HBA. She was back-to-back prep athlete of the year and Gatorade Girls Volleyball State Player-of-the-Year. She was also named to the 15 National all-Tournament Team in 2008 at the USA Girls Junior Olympic Volleyball Championship. Palmer’s numbers prove her dominance, with a recorded 217 kills and 119 digs in her final season alone.

Palmer’s graduation marked the end of the Lady Eagles’ championship run. Though there hasn’t been a Palmer-caliber player to come out of HBA since then, the Class of 2018 had some serious firepower. Kallie Langford, Keri Lum, Britney O’Donnell, and Ally Wada were all consistent names on ILH All-Star teams, with Lum and Wada winning MVP in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

The Lady Eagles has had a rocky start this season. Senior Brienna Nishimura and sophomore Asja Deai, two of the team’s best weapons, are out of commission, both having torn ACL’s. Depending on the severity of the injury, both Nishimura and Deai could be out for longer than the 2018-2019 season.

However, Shioji seems unfazed by these facts. “The competition [is tough for us] every year,” Shioji said flatly. “I do not believe we have a target on our back. Although every team would like to defeat us, we are certainly not the favorite, on paper, to win the ILH D2 title, let alone the D2 state title.”

The Lady Eagles currently have five wins and four losses, and are tied for fifth in the ILH Division 2 standings with Iolani. They face Damien (8-0) this Friday at HBA’s Fall Spike Nite event and have two games to go in season play.