Youth volleyball: Hoopa adjusting to level of play at nationals

The Hoopa Hawaii Volleyball Club’s trip to Minnesota has not gotten off to a good start, but coach Ainsley Keawekane has seen some positives.

“I’m proud of them,” Keawekane said Monday night after the team won its first match at the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships in Minneapolis. “It’s a big step for us, coming from Kona to nationals.”

The Hoopa Hawaii team, which features 11 players from the Kailua-Kona area, lost its first four pool-play matches in straight sets before beating CVA 17 Silver 2-1 on Monday night. Hoopa Hawaii will play more matches over the next two days against teams in the Under 17 National division.

“The quality is really high, but that’s no excuse,” Keawekane said.“Our girls just needed to show up and they had a hard time showing up.”

Hoopa Hawaii was in every match. On Sunday, the team lost 25-22, 25-20 to Chaska Juniors 171, 25-22, 25-21 to Premier 17 Gold and 25-18, 25-23 to FRVBC 17 Silver. Monday brought a 28-26, 25-17 loss to Venetian Bay 17 Determin before the team posted a 24-26, 25-16, 17-15 victory over CVA 17 Silver.

“We’re just as good as any team we played, we just couldn’t finish,” Keawekane said. “I thought the girls finished up on the last game and put it together. They knew they had to be on the same page. They seemed to be in rhythm. (On Sunday), everybody was listening to a different tune.”

The event, which is billed as the nation’s biggest girls tournament, is designed to attract the attention of college coaches, and Keawekane said his players did just that.

“We had a couple of colleges come by and ask about a couple of our kids,” he said. “I was excited I got to talk to college coaches about four of my kids.”