By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The similarities run deep between the girls volleyball teams at Hawaii Prep and Konawaena, something Ka Makani assistant coach Nicky Reynolds knows well.
Her daughters, senior outside hitter Tiana and junior setter Tehane Reynolds, were key starters. Her husband, Martin Reynolds, is also an assistant to coach Sharon Peterson, who has guided HPA to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament the last eight years.
On Friday, Konawaena defeated HPA 25-16, 26-24, 25-18, 25-12 to capture its first state championship at McKinley High’s gym on Oahu in the first all-Big Island Interscholastic Federation title matchup in the tourney’s nine-year history.
As a parting farewell present, Tiana Reynolds was named to the All-Tournament team.
Like HPA, the Wildcats also have a starting sister duo in sophomore outside hitter Chanelle Molina and freshman hitter/setter Celena Molina, providing a youthful foundation for several more state title runs.
Kona sophomore middle blocker McKenna Ventura is a link between the two teams. She played last year at HPA and Nicky Reynolds knows her parents, Hamana and Lovey Ventura, a pair of assistants to coach Ainsley Keawekane.
Nicky Reynolds has been a lifetime coach to her two girls, who preferred basketball as youngsters and played volleyball as a backup sport.
“I’ve coached my daughters on the side since they were small,” she said. “They liked basketball when they were younger, but took a turn in high school and volleyball is now No. 1 for both of them.
“On the court they have a lot of similarities. They’re both really disciplined. Both set goals for themselves and team goals. They try to get everybody together. They’re great leaders.”
Nicky Reynolds has been an assistant three years, and coached HPA’s junior varsity for three years, watching her girls grow up.
“Between the girls, off the court, they’re nothing alike at all,” she said. “They are best friends, but have very different personalities and outlook on things. Tiana is soft-spoken, really smart and likes to work out.
“Tehane is strong-minded, smart as well, and likes to work out at a minimum. The biggest development I’ve seen is more focus and intensity. Sharon teaches a lot of that, to be in control.”
Well, mom can control only so much, especially when it comes to college choices.
Tiana is looking at Linfield or Lewis&Clark, Division III schools in Oregon. She’s also thinking about eliminating all her free hours, playing both volleyball and basketball.
“I asked her, ‘Are you sure?’ She’s thinking about it,” Nicky said. “We flew over the summer to visit schools. She’s most likely looking at the West coast. I’m thinking Linfield, but every week she’s telling me, ‘Mom, I don’t know yet.’
“For both, she’s picking more for the school. The Lewis&Clark coaches are keeping in touch with her.”
Chanelle Molina and HPA’s Gabbie Ewing are alike in so many ways. On the volleyball court, they’re both considered short (the lanky Molina is 5-6 and the compact Ewing is 5-7). But both play much bigger because of their athleticism, especially their jumping ability.
In their favorite sports, each has adequate size: Molina as a guard on Kona’s basketball team, and Ewing as a midfielder on HPA’s soccer squad. Both were standout players last season, in both sports.
As a sophomore last season, Ewing landed on the All-BIIF Division II first team at outside hitter for volleyball and at midfield for soccer.
As a freshman last season, Molina made the All-BIIF Division II second team at outside hitter, and All-BIIF Division I first team at guard.
What’s more impressive is each had outstanding team success. Molina led the Wildcats in scoring in each game at the Division I state basketball tourney, where they were runner-up to Kamehameha-Kapalama. She did the same at McKinley Gym and was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player.
Molina also helped continue Kona’s BIIF title collection. Coach Bobbie Awa’s powerhouse has captured the last five league championships, and 11 of the last 12, a dominant run interrupted by Waiakea in 2008.
As a midfielder, Ewing’s role is not essentially to score, but more so to set up others and play tough defense. In her two years, HPA has finished runner-up twice at the Division II state tourney, falling to Mid-Pacific both times.
Like Molina, Ewing also helped extend HPA’s league title streak. Coach Steve Perry’s well-oiled, pass-and-possess machine has pocketed the last four BIIF crowns.
Throw out HPA’s two tall middle blockers (5-11 senior Seychelle Francis and 5-11 junior Alaina Bradley) and the Wildcats and Ka Makani would be identical playing twins.
They’ve both got sister and coaching staff connections. But the similarities don’t end there.
“Overall, both teams are well-coached,” Nicky Reynolds said. “Ainsley and Sharon are good coaches and both teams are discipled. Overlooking both teams, we are alike in so many ways.”
Both offenses revolve around a dynamic shotmaker (Chanelle Molina and Ewing), sure-handed setters (Celena Molina and Makani Wall, and HPA’s Tehane Reynolds), and tough-minded liberos to deliver clean balls (Kona transfer student Ela Seier from Germany, and Kawena Lim-Samura).
In a similar challenge, both schools need to replace their starting liberos, though Kona already has an in-house replacement candidate.
It’s no surprise that most of the main parts play club ball. The Molina sisters, Ewing and HPA setter Carina Verhulsdonk are on Keawekane’s Hoopa club team. The Reynolds sisters played on Hi-Intensity, coached by former UH-Hilo star Carla Carpenter-Kabalis.
The BIIF runner-up Wildcats take less of a graduation hit than HPA, which loses seven seniors. They’ll graduate Wall, but get Celena Molina back for three more years. The other senior starter is Seier, but freshman serving specialist and defender Haena Keawekane is waiting in the wings.
HPA will lose Tiana Reynolds, a 5-9 outside hitter who provided offense, blocking, passing and senior poise, and libero Lim-Samura, whose first sport is softball but worked her way into the starting lineup.
Other key senior losses are Francis, setters Verhulsdonk and Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac, and Morgan Monahan, a dependable serving specialist.
One other important similarity between the two BIIF teams: both will be favorites next year to be back where they finished, at the Division II state championship.
“Sharon has an influential background,” Nicky Reynolds said. “She brings out the best in an athlete. I see our future being really good, even if we are losing seven seniors.
“I see the same thing with Kona’s future as well. Ainsley is a good coach and they have a very young team.”