By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
If you attend Hawaii Preparatory Academy, there’s a good chance you’re pretty bright. And if you play for Sharon Peterson, you’re probably well-schooled in volleyball.
There is, however, a “but.”
One of Peterson’s themes for her girls team this season is focus.
“Someone once said that without focus, the body is dumb,” Peterson said. “We’re trying to get smart with our bodies. Without directing your body, it isn’t going anywhere. What needs to get better in a hurry is our focus.”
Once the mind and body are sound, the smartest course of action for the Ka Makani this season might just be to get the ball to outside hitters Gabbie Ewing and Tiana Reynolds, then let one of the fiercest hitting combinations in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation take over.
There is, however, a “but.”
It takes more than two to tango in volleyball.
“For them to be good at hitting, it takes a pass and a set,” Peterson said. “It’s a 1-2-3 combination. A good part is getting the ball up there so they can take a good swing at it.
“The setters are coming along and there are some adjustments to make, but both Gabbie and Tiana are good at passing from the front or back.”
Another one of HPA’s leading players last year was middle blocker McKenna Ventura, but the promising sophomore’s transfer to Konawaena leaves a whole to fill in the middle and figures to put a bigger onus on the outside hitters.
Still, Ewing and Reynolds make HPA a pretty good bet to claim its eighth straight trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament.
Ewing, a 5-foot-7 junior, made first-team all-BIIF last season — she repeated the honor in soccer — and is well on her way to becoming a four-year standout in both sports.
“Last year, I felt like I was someone for everyone to look up to, and I’m going to try and pursue that this year as well,” she said. “Just working hard; just being an example.”
Reynolds, a 5-9 senior who’s in her third year at HPA after transferring from Kamehameha-Oahu, made the league’s second team in volleyball.
Reynolds, perhaps diplomatically, says the team is full of No. 1s. But if HPA needs a point, it’s nice two have two proven options.
“We look at out setters, and they know what to do,” Reynolds said of crucial points.
The Ka Makani are senior-laden but inexperienced in many areas as they break in new starters at setter and middle blocker, as well as at libero. HPA was dethroned as the two-time champion in the 2012 BIIF semifinals by Konawaena, then went on to win three games at states and finished in fifth place at 16-6.
In addition to Ewing and Reynolds, the other two players with club experience are setters Carina Verhulsdonk, a senior who made honorable-mention all-league at libero last year, and Tehane Reynolds, a junior who will start for the first time.
“They’re doing well,” said Tiana Reynolds, who was looking forward to working with her sister. “As hitters, we just have to adjust.”
Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac is still on the mend after blowing out her knee earlier in the year during the basketball season, and the setter’s playing status was uncertain on the eve of the regular season.
The middle blockers are a pair of 5-11 seniors, Seychelle Francis and Asia Kaden, who each saw playing time last year. The liberos aren’t as inexperienced. Senior Morgan Monahan and junior Kawena Lim-Samura are new to the position.
The Ka Makani performed well at the Waiakea Girls Volleyball Invitational last weekend, winning the first set against three-time Division I BIIF champion Kamehameha in the semifinals before falling 15-13 in the decisive third set.
Reynolds said that HPA started to exhibit the focus that Peterson cherishes and has the potential to play “great volleyball,” which could come in handy this Saturday when the Ka Makani open the regular season against the Warriors in Keaau.
Ewing, meanwhile, wasn’t leaving much room for “ifs,” “ands” or “buts” when she was asked about a season outlook.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” she said. “I think me and Tiana are the go-to hitters, but I have a lot of faith in our middles, and our right side. The setters are stepping up and adjusting.
“I’m excited to see what they can do for us.”