By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Jevin Ching, Kama Paio and Noah Schenk are alike in a lot of ways. They’re all 6 feet, 2 inches, hit and pass well for tall guys, and share the team concept.
The last part is the driving force that powered the Hawaii Prep boys volleyball team to the school’s first Big Island Interscholastic Federation championship last season.
The Ka Makani figure to be heavy favorites, especially with old rival Kohala losing its entire starting lineup to graduation. Pahoa, with returning key starters Nick Fisher, Jarrett Kamaka and Joseph Lefiti, will also be in the mix for the BIIF Division II title.
“Jevin, Kama and Noah all played club ball,” HPA coach Sharon Peterson said. “A lot will depend on how they bring the team together. That’s important, but with their skills that’s a good start. They’re all more mature with better court sense.”
For added motivation, HPA has a tradition competition with the school’s basketball team, which won its first BIIF title last season and repeated this year. Now, it’s volleyball’s turn, again.
“We have to be in control and defense, especially our blocking and backcourt defense, will be really important,” Peterson said. “We have to play smart and I’d like someone to step up in a leadership role. That’s not their strong suit, stepping up vocally and talking. Maybe, it’ll be leadership by example.”
The three are serious about volleyball, giving it their full attention. What better way to lead by example then by spending their summer working hard. Ching and Schenk played club ball with Kuikahi on Oahu while Paio was with Pilipaa.
Senior setter Zeke Chong is the other returning starter. Like last year, HPA is hoping to run a 6-2 lineup with two setters. Peterson is looking to turn basketball’s Hide Akai, a 6-1 sophomore who adds additional height on the block, into the second setter.
Last season players from other sports carried the Ka Makani in the BIIF championship. Keanu Yamamoto (football) produced 17 kills and 14 digs, and Tyler Van Kirk (basketball) added 13 kills and 11 digs in a four-set win over Kohala.
The Cowboys beat HPA twice during the regular season. They will have a new look, including their coach. Kine Lorenzo, who coached at the school from 2001 to ’07, replaces Chai Wilson.
“We’re a work in progress. The majority of the team is young,” Lorenzo said. “Our backup setter, Kala‘i Kapeliela returns. We’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. The players are coachable and willing to learn. They don’t mind taking risks on offense or defense.
“It’s all for one and one for all with us. We’ll take it one game at a time and see what happens. Teamwork is what it boils down to. You have to work together as a team.”
Those words ring in the ears of the Ka Makani, who have reached the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament five of the last six years.
Ching, who landed on the All-BIIF second team at outside hitter, and Paio started last season while Schenk came off the bench. Ching and Paio, who’ll start at right-side hitter, are seniors while Schenk, who’ll be the other left-side hitter, is a junior.
It will be the trio’s turn to put the team’s aspiration for prosperity on their shoulders. They’ll be full-time workers — passing serves, blocking big, providing firepower and doing everything else in between.
“Jevin’s overall game has improved,” Peterson said. “His confidence is more consistent and his understanding of the game is better. Kama is a very good blocker. His hitting has improved and he has great hands and passes the ball well. He seems to be more confident. He’s an all-around player for us and can do everything.
“Noah is more controlled and he can step in and pass the ball, something he didn’t do last year. He’s shown improvement and he’ll be one of our primary passers, along with Kama and Jevin. They do a nice job and work well together. They’re definitely more controlled.”
Paio is looking forward to chasing another BIIF title.
“We’ve got good potential,” he said. “Our blocking, again, is our strong suit. I think we could do it again.”
The power-point word for HPA is control, which has influential hold over the players because they’re remembering it.
“I like our overall control. We’re learning how to play as a team, how to pick each other up when someone is down,” Schenk said. “Volleyball is more of a mental game. Coach always talks about that in order to play as a team you have to support each other.
“We’ve always wanted to win BIIFs. The fact that we wanted it last year helped push us harder, and helped pull us together. This year, it’s the same thing. We want to win BIIFs and to win the title we have to pull together.”