Southside girls volleyball club puts on a show in Las Vegas

  • RICK OGATA photo Ka’u High's Chelsea Velez was a force at middle blocker for Southside, which didn’t lose a set in winning the title at the AAU West Coast championship.

The next wave of BIIF volleyball players from different schools played for Southside and captured the girls 16 AAU West Coast championship last week in Las Vegas.

The team, coached by Kamehameha coach Guy Enriques with assistants Daryl Masanda and Tyson Takiue and assisted by team chaperone Hauoli Aiona, went 9-0 and didn’t lose a single set during the three-day tourney.

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Southside defeated the previously undefeated Dig This in the semifinals and beat pre-tourney No. 1 seed TNVA of Ohio in the finals, beating the favorite twice.

“It was an amazing, enjoyable trip,” Enriques said. “It was the first time they played in two years, after two days a week practices. We had 10 practices total. A lot of them played beach volleyball. We couldn’t get in gyms.

“We practiced at the Hilo Yacht Club and in Kona, where Ainsley Keawekane helped us out with a lot of high school beach doubles. We improved our ball-control. They put in a lot of time and investment.”

Enriques credited the parents, who drove the players to practice and footed the bill for the trip because Southside was unable to fundraise during the pandemic.

“We had to be innovative because we didn’t have a gym,” Enriques said. “Under the circumstances, we saw a complete transformation over the national tourney.”

Some of the players have familiar names, and a few will soon make a big impact in BIIF volleyball in 2022.

Chelsea Velez, a Ka’u junior who made the All-BIIF Division II team as a freshman outside hitter in 2019, played middle blocker and served tough at the tourney.

“She’s an animal and did great,” Enriques said. “She’s got instincts, quickness, and hunger and is 5 feet 8 on a stretch for a middle. She almost took a girl’s head off when she nailed her in the head. It was one of the best hits. She picked up a lot of junk, off tips, and roll shots.

“Her serving won us one game. She served nine straight. That’s how we beat the better teams. We would out serve them.”

Kamehameha junior Sarah Schubert, an outside hitter, is better known for basketball. She made the All-BIIF Division II first team during the 2020 season.

Schubert and Cammie Masanda, another junior outside hitter who was an All-BIIF Division I honorable mention in 2019, will be the main threats for the Warriors now that Nani Spaar (Santa Clara) and Tiani Bello (Eckerd College in Florida) are off to Division colleges.

It’s more likely than not that the 5-10 Schubert will fill the LH1 (first rotation outside hitter) spot, held by Spaar. It’s an honor of distinction, like an ace of the pitching staff.

Schubert will grow, not only in inches but also in production because she decided to make volleyball her top sport. Her athleticism and footwork in basketball will only help her on the volleyball court.

“She’s strong and very quick and very coachable, and that’s what makes her special,” Enriques said. “Her dad and I talked and even though I played basketball I couldn’t tell him what her potential is in basketball, but I could tell that she has potential in volleyball if she puts the time in. I told her, ‘You don’t have to give up basketball, you can play basketball, just don’t get hurt.’ She’s got great hops and is very intelligent.

“She and Masanda will be our 1-2 punch. They’ve both got ball-control. Cammie is coachable. I can tell her to tip and there it is. With a lot of kids, it comes five plays later. She’s very consistent and tough-minded. She’s a fighter out there in a quiet way.”

One of the most promising players is Hawaii Prep freshman middle blocker Margot Lewis, whose sister is Parker Lewis, who made the All-BIIF Division II first team as a freshman outside hitter in 2019.

“She can 100 percent crunch balls,” Enriques said. “She’s close to 6 feet. A lot of kids that height don’t have the coordination, but she’s doing well. She’s got a lot of energy.”

It looks like HPA’s state appearance streak will be in good hands with the Lewis sisters. Every time a state tournament was held (the 2020 edition was canceled due to the pandemic), Ka Makani has been there for the last 14 years, under coach Sharon Peterson.

Another familiar name is Kealakehe junior setter/opposite Liberty Tuifua, whose sister is Anastasia Tuifua, who landed on the All-BIIF first team as a senior middle blocker in 2019. She’s now playing ball at Salt Lake Community College in Utah.

“Liberty was our main blocker,” Enriques said. “We’d identify the other team’s best hitter and put Liberty on her. She missed a year and a half of play, but she’s catching up, like all the girls. She made it up in three months’ time. She was working hard.”

Kamehameha libero Tabitha Pacheco is a late-born senior and the oldest on the team. Her Kamehameha and Southside teammate is Eden Lukzen.

The setters were Tuifua, Kamehameha junior Savanna Colliado, and Konawaena junior Taimane Alo, an All-BIIF honorable mention in 2019.

“They made a lot of money sets for us,” Enriques said. “Those three were awesome in the backcourt. People would come to watch them dig up balls.”

One of the main goals for club teams is to get the players exposure in front of college coaches. Enriques believes all of his players have college potential.

“The minimum is Division II, all of them,” he said. “All three of our setters and all our hitters can play libero at the college level because of their ball-control.”

Southside will play at an Oahu tournament next week, return home to practice, then travel to Anaheim, Calif., for another tourney, followed by another national tournament in Las Vegas.

Enriques will rely on the same game plan as the competition gets better.

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“It’s ball-control that wins ball games,” he said. “We don’t let balls fall, and we’ll serve teams off the court, we’ll find your weak spots and hit it. We don’t hit lollipops either.”

The only thing left is to find a gym for a bit of practice time.

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