The HBA boys volleyball team will play their first season game at the end of the month. This is the seventh year that the team will be competing in ILH Division 1. While most sports at HBA compete in Division 2, volleyball head coach Teoni Obrey decided to make the switch from D2 to D1 to make the sport more competitive as HBA won nine Division II state titles between 2008 and 2017.
With all the competition that D1 has to offer, the players have been motivated to consistently train as a group and on their own in the pre-season. The volleyball program began conditioning sessions in November, and the players have been working out three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after school. This training rigor is one of the reasons why Obrey thinks being in D1 is beneficial for the team. “Yes it’s a risk…but in the end we feel the risk is worth it,” he said. “We feel it’s important for our team to have the opportunity to compete against the best. We have found that [when] competing in Division 1, especially in the ILH, our student athletes are more focused, humble and hungry. We have to play well every time we step on the court and execute at a high level. And when we are not successful on the scoreboard, we will go back to the gym and work to get better. The best part is that the other teams in our league are doing the same, which is a great challenge.”
The team’s workouts are run and managed by the returning varsity seniors. These workouts are focused not only on building strength and muscular endurance but also on building mental strength. Obrey emphasized how these workouts are “building program chemistry.” According to him, they challenge players from all different strength levels to be mentally and physically.
In addition to the after school group workouts, sophomore Tanner Hankey has been hitting the weight room. Junior Kamden Kaneshiro-Takeuchi has been “working on refining techniques that [he hasn’t] touched in a while.” Senior Presley Longfellow has also been spending time in the gym. “I’ve been putting in the work every day. It’s about gym every single day, always in the weight room,” he said.
Coach Obrey has given the team a say in whether they want to play in Division 1 or 2, and the players agree that they like the challenge in Division 1. Hankey said, “It’s way more fun to play D1 competition than D2.” Kaneshiro-Takeuchi added, “Challenging ourselves to be better is the main thing.” Longfellow knows that it’s going to be harder, but he believes that it is worth it. “It’s about working as hard as you can and playing the best competition that you have…that’s the only way that you’re gonna improve,” he explained.
For Obrey, his expectations, standards and goals remain the same no matter which division the team plays in. While winning the state championship would be a marker of success, he believes that a successful season is defined by more than a trophy. “A successful season will be watching our seniors grow in their leadership roles, watching our team bond both on and off the court, forming life-long friendships and understanding the value of being a good teammate and person,” he said. The players are also looking to accomplish some personal goals. Kaneshiro-Takeuchi said, “Personally, I want to make the all-ILH team this year.” Longfellow hopes to be “Player of the Year for D1.” While Hankey has his eye on the state championship, he is also focused on his development as an athlete. “I want to get better at my passing and being more consistent with serving,” he said.
So far, Obreyʻs goal of seeing the team bond appears to be on track. Hankey said, “I enjoy how everyone’s close and it’s like a family more so than a team.” Longfellow really likes how hard each player pushes each other to be better. “We’re always staying locked in and always doing good and motivating each other to do better. And pushing each other even if it’s not easy,” he said.
Obrey is looking forward to seeing how the seniors will lead the team. “This group of seniors are very thoughtful, a little on the reserved side but share a confident and competitive spirit. Pre-season will be key for this team with everyone getting comfortable with their new roles. We have several players who have really improved this off-season and we are excited for this team’s potential. We know we are underdogs and are looking forward to the challenge!”