By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science is in its debut season in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation for girls junior varsity volleyball, looking like a future Division II contender.
The Na Naia defeated Honokaa 25-10, 25-11 on Saturday at Wainaku Gym, improving its record to 3-0, after upsetting Kealakehe and beating Pahoa in earlier JV matches.
The charter school in Pahoa, across from the post office road, has the Block twin sisters — Madeline and Genevieve — as spark plugs and building blocks. They’re both freshmen, and the starting setter and outside hitter, respectively.
They’re also the younger sisters of Maxine Block, who played on the USA High Performance team over the summer in Iowa. She also attends HAAS, but the junior middle blocker plays at Pahoa because HAAS doesn’t yet offer varsity volleyball.
Next season, HAAS coach Eric Cockcroft intends to keep his team at the JV level for a second season. That means the Daggers will get additional depth with Na Naia sophomores Maya Secola, Yasmin Autrata, and Camry Isabel. Secola and Autrata are starting middle blockers.
But more importantly for Pahoa is that Maxine Block will play her senior season as a Dagger instead of playing with her sisters — if HAAS decided to jump to varsity next year.
“We’re going to be a JV team next year,” said Cockcroft, a teacher at HAAS, who also helped start the school 12 years ago. “We don’t want to break up Pahoa’s team. We’re there to help the community. I know Maxine is getting looked at by colleges.
“It’s our first girls volleyball team, and we’re also offering boys and girls cross country for the first time as a fall sport. We’ve had boys soccer for three years with girls on the team.”
As a Division II school, HAAS has a sizable enrollment of roughly 800 students from kindergarten to 12th grade, including 250 in high school. The school sits on 13 acres, but lacks one important facility: there’s no gym.
Cockcroft said Na Naia has practiced once at Pahoa’s old gym, and scrimmaged Laupahoehoe in the preseason, indoor sessions that he and the team truly appreciated. That’s because the team practices outdoors — under the sun or in mud when the field doesn’t dry quick enough from rain.
“I’m proud of the team’s commitment because practicing in the mud ruins their shoes,” he said. “Most of the kids have played for my club the last few years. Until they lose, the six get to start because we only had six before the others came out.”
The Blocks will be back next season. The two middles, Secola and Autrata, will have to play at Pahoa as juniors. Na Naia’s other starters are hitter Brandi Faxon and setter Mary Cockcroft, a pair of freshmen, the latter the coach’s daughter.
The bench includes freshmen Katherine Rodgers, Ivy Ho and Briana Ridgeway and sophomore Isabel, a player with a star next to her name on the team’s roster.
“She’s an inspiration to the team,” Cockcroft said. “She talks more than anyone else.”
In the manner of inspiration, HAAS will hold a plate lunch and car wash fundraiser from 2 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the school campus, hoping to raise funds to build a gym, or at least practice at Pahoa’s old gym.