By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hilo High’s Evalani Toledo and Amanda Loeffler both made first-team all-Big Island Interscholastic Federation last season at outside hitter.
Their objective as seniors: Do it again, only faster.
Those high, lazy sets are so 2012. This year, the Lady Vikings volleyball team is going up-tempo with quick, crisp sets to try and beat blockers to the punch. Coach Olino Kotaki is moving to a faster-paced offense so that Hilo can be better equipped once the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament rolls around.
“We want to compete at that level,” Kotaki said.
Hilo finished runner-up in BIIF Division I last season to Kamehameha for the second straight year, then lost in the opening round at states in a tight five-setter against Pearl City, despite a combined 30 kills by Toledo and Loeffler.
“Eva’s getting to be more of a leader,” Kotaki said. “She’s getting faster and is finding different shots to hit.
“For Amanda, I think this offense works better for her, because she doesn’t have to think as much as with a higher set. She likes faster sets. She’s gotten better at knowing her role.”
Kotaki would have liked to make the move before, but she wasn’t sure the setters were quite up to the speed. She’s confident this year that senior Maraea Chung, junior Taylor Alicuben and freshman Sadee Fujioka can handle the transition in Hilo’s two-setter system.
“I think it’s a good balance between setter and hitter,” Kotaki said. “Both have to be accountable and have to be in position.”
Chung called Toledo, the reigning BIIF champion in the shot put, a “powerhouse.”
And that was before the system change. The goal is to keep Toledo and Loeffler from going up against double block as often.
“We can run better plays and faster plays,” Chung said. “This year, we have the team to take the title. We have a lot of skillful players.”
The Vikings open the season today with a showdown against Division II Konawaena in Kealakekua with four returning starters and a full compliment of club players on the roster. Toledo enters her fourth year as a starter, while Loeffler and senior Angel Alameda have contributed the previous three seasons.
Alameda was a hitter and setter before she got to Hilo, but in high school she’s found a home at libero.
“I like it because it’s an adrenaline rush,” Alameda said. “I have a passion for it. I love passing.”
A pair of players who could benefit from those passes are middle blockers Lala Wilbur-Gabriel, a senior, and junior Shavonne DeMattos. Neither provides premium height, but Kotaki says both can leap and read the court well to limit the holes in Hilo’s block. Sophomore Krya Kaloi, another good jumper, is also in the mix.
As the person often making the first pass, Alameda will have a big role in determining whether Hilo’s new attack is a success.
“We’re trying to outquicken people,” she said. “We’ve got great setters and hitters. It’s coming along.”