Healing Lady Knights Face Red VB Playoffs In Waianae
By Jack Danilewicz
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Scouting reports took a back seat to injury reports for the Castle volleyball team for much of this fall, but those days appear to be in the rear view mirror now, to hear head coach Grant Tolentino tell it.
“We had a real rough spot, we’re starting to get healthy, and we’re starting to gel,” Tolentino said. “We’re confident that we’re peaking at the right time.”
The second season begins Thursday at Waianae, where Castle will play a firstround OIA Red Conference playoff game against the West’s fifth seed. (Pairings and seedings for the OIA Tournament were to be announced after press time, but Pearl City or Aiea are a probable opponent for Castle.) The playoffs continue Friday with secondround action.
Should Castle make a post-season run including earning a berth in the upcoming state volleyball championships it will be an appropriate finish for his senior class. The veterans Jasmine Solley, Kasey Lafitaga, Chelsey Gerona, Joshell Lilio and Kelsi and Kawai Fernandez (no relation) were to play their final home game last Thursday night against rival Kailua.
“We’ll definitely miss this senior class,” Tolentino said. “They all bring a positive attitude to the court.”
The right mindset could only have helped in August when the injury bug hit, beginning when projected starting setter Jessica Lauaki was lost for the season with a knee injury. Gerona also was lost for five weeks with a concussion, and Lilio missed the first three league games with a bad ankle sprain. Lilio has been back in the lineup for some time, while Gerona is being eased back into competition.
“She’s a little rusty after not being able to play in games or practice for five weeks, but she’s working hard to get back. Joshell added a huge lift when she came back, and she’s at about 98 percent right now.”
In the absence of starters, the rest of the Castle team pulled together, according to Solley. “We just continued to work hard even the people who were sitting out came to practice every day to help support us,” she said. “Overall it made us a stronger team. We learned from each other. We had to play different positions. Now everyone is back to normal. We’re all real close with each other. We’re more than a team. We’re a family.”
Solley and Lafitaga are among those who have had stellar seasons for the Knights, who entered their season finale with Kailua last week having won four straight.
“They’ve been very competitive in vying for that libero spot since last year,” Tolentino said. “Kasey has been playing really, really well, and Jasmine worked really, really hard in the off-season. She and Kasey help to start our transition game.”
Added Solley: “My goal was to work as hard as I could (in off-season and club season) to be the best I could for my senior year.”
Defense has been Castle’s forte, which may be a good thing entering this week’s OIA Tournament.
“Our offense is coming around, but we’ve struggled,” Tolentino said. “I’d have to say our defense has carried us through and is helping us win games.
“We have strong blocks, and we have people in the back row who are really good at picking up balls.”
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