A Summer Of Travelling, Winning

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - July 26, 2006
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Straight shooters: from left, assistant coach Alan Tokumura, Simone Riford, Rachel Tochiki, Heather Horn and coach Karen Finley
Straight shooters: from left, assistant coach Alan
Tokumura, Simone Riford, Rachel Tochiki, Heather
Horn and coach Karen Finley

It’s summertime and that means I get letters and e-mails and photos. I appreciate all of them and wish I could reprint them all. But here are three stories of Hawaii teams that took summer trips that ended up quite nicely.

Hawaii is known for its great volleyball teams, but did you know that our state’s dominance extends to the youth level?

“We’re not as tall (as Mainland teams) so we have to run a fast offense and throw them off-balance. That levels the playing field,” says George Ehia, the head coach of the Onipa’a Volleyball Club on Oahu.

Ehia took a team of 14-year-old boys to the National Junior Olympics in Minneapolis earlier this month. Not only did the boys from Hawaii win the gold medal, they finished the tournament with an undefeated record!

“We had been practicing since last November and the boys worked really hard,” Ehia says. “We have boys from private and public schools from all over Oahu - Waianae, Ewa Beach, Waipahu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Hawaii Kai, Kalihi. We told them they could accomplish great things, and they went out and did it. We won the (prestigious) Haili Tournament in Hilo in March, and I think that set the stage for our success in the Junior Olympics.”

Another Hawaii volleyball team, the ASICS Rainbows, overcame huge odds - and a tremendous height disadvantage - to win the silver medal in the Girls 16-and-under USA Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships in Atlanta.

“We started as the 40th seed,” writes Laurie Yogi, the club’s administrator. Because of injuries, the Rainbows played without their two regular outside hitters, and their average height was only about 5-feet-6-inches tall, or several inches shorter than their Mainland competition.

“The MVP of the team fell in an unfortunate accident a week before the tournament, so we had a new lineup and a whole new team strategy,” writes Corinne Pokipala, one of the team’s parents. “Everyone on the team had to raise her own level of play. They pushed themselves and pushed hard.”

The Rainbows stunned the field by reaching the championship match, and in the process had three players named to the National All-Tournament team- Sydney Yogi and Cheyanne Keanini of Punahou and Samantha Misa of Waipahu.

Finally, another Hawaii team was shooting straight in Kentucky this month. The co-ed Punahou Air Rifle team traveled to the Daisy Junior Open Rifle Championships and won it all.

“This is probably the top invitational in the country,” says Karen Finley, who coached both the Punahou Boys and the Punahou Girls to state titles during the school year. “These kids have risen to the top, and we went back there with high expectations.”

Simone Riford, who had won the Hawaii individual title, led the way in Kentucky. She not only won gold, silver and bronze in the Daisy Open, but also gold medal and silver medals in the Junior Olympics the same weekend. Other medalists in the Daisy Open were Heather Horn (two bronze) and Rachel Tochiki (silver). Punahou won the team gold in the Daisy Open and took home the bronze in the Junior Olympics.

“These kids work very hard,” Finley says. “Two of them have earned college scholarships because of it.”

Riford is headed to TCU while Horn is going to Nevada. Both have Olympic aspirations.

Congratulations to all the young Hawaii athletes who achieved greatness this summer.

As Coach Finley says, “They want to win. They want to achieve.”

No matter the odds, Hawaii should be proud.

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