The host Cardinals will look to develop consistency and add confidence as they join seven other teams in the St. Joseph High School girls preseason volleyball tournament this week.
The eight-team event runs Thursday through Saturday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. Matches start at 4 p.m. Thursday, 3:45 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Division II Cardinals, under head coach Noel Navarro, are joined in the tournament by Ka‘u, Kealakehe, Hilo, Konawaena, Waiakea, Hawaii Prep and Kamehameha-Hawaii.
“It’s a good tournament and should give all the teams a chance to play a lot of games,” Navarro said. “For us, we just need to play more together. I have seven returnees from last year, and they know our system. They haven’t played much since last year, so we’re going back to the basics.
“We need to play games and feel even more comfortable playing together. This is an awesome group to work with. We have four seniors and four sophomores on the team, and if they can play the way they’re capable, they should be able to contend for the BIIF title.”
The seniors on the Cardinals’ roster this are 5-foot-10 Haley Thorsen, a potent outside hitter; Georgia Pirie, a steady 5-3 setter/outside hitter; Nicole Smallwood, a versatile 5-3 setter/libero; and Lacey Toledo-Muragin, a 5-5 libero/outside hitter. The sophomores are Alison Fuata, a rock-solid 5-8 outside hitter/middle blocker; Olivia Brinkman, a 5-7 middle blocker/opposite hitter; Fiona Follett, a 5-5 defensive specialist/outside hitter; and Nozomi Nakazawa, a 5-foot defensive specialist.
“We’re looking for our seniors to provide leadership,” Navarro said. “Everybody on the team has a role, but for us to do well, we need everybody to step up.
“Haley is a big hitter, and we’ll rely on her and Alison to carry the hitting load. Olivia will be in the middle, while Georgia will be the setter in our 5-1 offense. Nicole is our all-around player who can play any position, and Lacey is our opposite-side hitter.
“That’s our starting lineup, but it could change somewhat as we play more games and get to see what all the girls can do in game situations.”
Navarro sees defense as the Cardinals’ biggest strength.
“Defense is the key,” he said. “But we’ll also need to have a solid offense and serve well. Our girls are strong-minded and have good team chemistry. If they can put all of this together as a team, they could have a really good season.”
Navarro points to Ka‘u as the favorite in the Division II title race.
“Ka‘u looks really strong,” he said. “They have two big hitters and play good defense.
“I haven’t seen (Konawaena) play yet, but every year they put out a good team. I know they lost a lot of seniors and don’t have too many returnees. But you’ve always got to play well to beat (Konawaena).”
Navarro is assisted this season by Amos Ayap and Cheri and Shanice Navarro. Cheri is Noel’s wife, while Shanice is the daughter.
“It’s a good staff to work with,” the Cardinals head coach said. “We divide up the girls for skills work and then scrimmage. We’ve had the girls scrimmage against some adult players, and they’ve held their own.
“We’re really looking forward to this season and seeing what the girls can do.”
St. Joseph athletic director Chloe Thurston said the school is looking forward to the tournament.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to host a great event for the volleyball community,” she said. “We know there’s not a lot of preseason volleyball tournaments on the Big Island, so we’re really pleased to be able to host the tournament and provide valuable playing experience for the participating teams.”
Thurston works with assistant AD Jacob Doolittle to oversee the Cardinals’ athletic program.
Kamehameha’s junior varsity team is representing the private school in this week’s tournament. The varsity squad is playing in the Kamehameha-Oahu tournament this weekend.