Boys Volleyball Fab 15: Coaches’ comments

Here’s a list of capsules and coaches’ comments about the 2018 Star-Advertiser Boys Volleyball All-State Fab 15, including Coach of the Year Dandi Holder of St. Francis.

COY Dandi Holder, St. Francis

Rick Tune (Punahou): “It takes a masterful coach to be able to rally a team back down 0-2 in the state final. It doesn’t get much more pressure packed than that. What I saw from the sideline was a quiet confidence than they infused into their players. I loved the way they set their players up to lead and be successful. They did a fantastic job.”

Player capsules
1. Ryan Wilcox, Punahou, Player of the Year
>> Ultra consistent and efficient, had a team-high 45 kills in three state-tourney matches for the champion Buffanblu. 15 kills in the title win over Moanalua. Signed with UC Santa Barbara.

Coach Jordan Inafuku (‘Iolani): I’ve seen Ryan mature quite a bit over the last four years both as a volleyball player and as a leader. He made a concerted effort this year to be more efficient in his attacking and to make all the little plays that people don’t always notice. Adding that to his already powerful point-scoring ability elevated him to yet a higher level. Impressively, he also embraced more responsibility as a team leader and did an excellent job setting a high standard for his teammates.”

(Note: Coach Inafuku works with Ryan in the offseason at Spike and Serve Volleyball Club.)

Coach Alan Cabanting (Moanalua): “What else is there to say about Ryan? The athleticism, the physicality, the volleyball IQ, he’s one of those kids that comes once in a blue moon. You don’t know whether to stand back or to come forward on his serve.  When you stand back bracing for that powerful serve, he throws this soft roll shot into the middle of the court that only a few spin servers could do. When you come forward, he throws the powerful aggressive serve that can catch you in the face if you don’t move out of it’s way. He can hit any kind of attack that he wants, and he uses whichever he wants based on what the defense is giving him.  Whether he gets blocked or not, he comes back and gets a kill for his team. And more importantly, he carries this humility on the court that allow all his opponent to respect him. He’s just a great volleyball player.

Coach Randy Nako (Kamehameha): “Ryan is a special player also. He has  the fastest arm swings in the State. You combine that arm swing with his skill level makes him a very dangerous player to try to defend and to stop.”

Coach Kahinu Lee (Kealakehe): “He’s a great jump server and sees the court very well. He’s a heavy hitter, but a smart hitter. Great volleyball IQ.”

Coach Trent Niino (Mililani): “Ryan Wilcox reminded me of another Punahou legend, Parker Smith. Tall, lanky kid who could just explode on the Outside, and completely take control of the game. Such a high volleyball IQ that he makes the game of look so easy and fluid.  In the four years I’ve been back in Hawaii coaching volleyball, I have not seen another high school player with a powerful jump serve like his. The kid is going to be somebody, that’s for sure.”

Tune: “Ryan has a high degree of skill. He can pass, defend, has a wicked jump serve, attacks from anywhere. Especially with his attacking, he has so many shots and great vision. He can dip into his toolbox. He works on it and perfects his craft. You don’t get there without working extremely hard.”

2. Jameson McKibbin, Punahou
USC-bound setter had 89 assists, 5 kills, 4 ace, 12 digs as Punahou rolled over three foes to the state title.

Tune: “He’s our on-court vocal leader. He did a nice job of bringing his energy every game. With Jameson, there’s no letdown. You get consistent energy every time. Obviously, he has great skill level. He improved his pin blocking a lot. He knows where the holes in his game are and attacks them. He knows he still has to work on that, but it’s something he made great strides with.”

3. Kana‘i Akana, Punahou
Rocket-launching senior had 34 kills, 6 aces, 16 digs in Punahou’s three victories at states. 13 kills in the title win over Moanalua.

Tune: “He’s just one of the most passionate kids I’ve ever been around. He doesn’t know how to play at anything less than his top gear. The one thing I really love about Kana‘i is he’s fearless. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing, he just competes. There’s not too many guys who can play a 5-1 opposite as an opposite. At the high school level they don’t come along often.”

4. Jon Stanley, Kaiser
Long, lanky and versatile, Stanley sparked the Cougars to the OIA final. His ankle injury going into the state tourney was a major factor. He was interested in UH, but BYU is a possible destination.

Coach Jon Stanley Sr.: “The area that he had to work hard at was blocking. At Kaiser, we want to get three up as much as a we could, so we had to work on mentally preparing him to join in on that. By the end of the year, he was a lot more aggressive. His instincts in the back court always amaze me, I’d see a great hit and there’s Jon to pick it up. I think think that came from playing at Junior Nationals with Outrigger. They won the Junior National 17s last year.”

5. Cole Hogland, ‘Iolani
22 kills, one ace, six digs and four blocks in the state semifinals against Moanalua. Had 55 kills, 10 aces, 19 digs in the state tourney.

Inafuku: “Cole’s physicality is the most obvious thing on the court in any match we played. He’s one of the strongest, most dynamic, powerful athletes we’ve seen in a while. And he has a big personality to match. This year, he directed that energy to lead his team and make the people around him better.”

6. Kala‘i Leopoldo, Moanalua
The versatile senior had 10 kills, 1 ace, five digs against KS-Hawaii, and 16 kills, one ace, 14 digs and a block against ‘Iolani.

Cabanting: “Kalai has a heavy hand. He’s one of our hardest hitters and coupled with his volleyball IQ he’s really hard to stop. This year he added a couple of finesse shots including tips to the corner and roll shots to the middle of the court. He became quite an offensive power for us.”

7. Matthew Saffrey, Kamehameha
Nako: “Matt is very important to the success to the team in his example of strong work ethic, and his skill level and knowledge of the game. He has the ability to already play at the next level and higher. He is quite and does his talking with his play. All his team mates will follow him to battle with no hesitation. That is the positive effect he has. He is very special!”

Stanley: “He’s a great setter. He’s being looked at by a lot of strong (college) programs. At the high school and junior level, he is very good attacking, good ball control. He played for me three years ago with my Hawaii Junior team and he was the best player in the tournament. His setting at that time was just getting started.”

8. Blaze Kahikina, Waianae
The senior led the undersized Seariders to a 9-1 mark in the OIA West. He had 21 kills, 11 digs and a block in the state quarterfinals against KS-Hawaii. He signed with Grand View, Iowa.

Coach Wilhelm Wagner (Waianae): “His constant aggressiveness, his energy. That’s how he always practices, how he always plays. I told him constantly from the sideline, 80 percent is enough. He would get so overworked, so it was about calming him down.”

9. Shea Suzumoto, Punahou
32 digs in the state tourney for the state champions.

Tune: “He improved his back row defense quite a bit. He makes an aggressive move and extends his zone defensively. I think one of the things that Shea did this year is he got a heck of a lot steadier. He was, maybe, you could make the case he was our steadiest player this year.”

10. Max Slaughter, Moanalua
A key cog in a perfect 14-0 record and OIA crown for Na Menehune. He had 14 kills, 14 digs against ‘Iolani in the state semifinals.

Cabanting: “Max is the epitome of consistency. While he still does get nervous and anxious, his mistakes never get the better of him. His hitting percentage has always been the highest of our three hitters hovering around .325 the entire year. He has this smoothness in his attack and hides the type of attack he uses that it makes it very difficult to defend him. I think he’s going to be one of those guys that can take over a game for us his senior year.”

11. Jesus Garcia, St. Francis
Relentlessly successful with 136 assists, 11 kills, 8 aces, 16 digs and 3 blocks in the Saints’ three-match run to the D-II state title. He had 65 assists in a five-set win over Molokai, then 35 assists, 6 kills, 4 aces, 5 digs and 2 blocks in the comeback win over Kapaa for the crown.

Holder: Definitely, his leadership skills improved. He’s always had a great attitude, he does anything he’s asked to do, but his leadership definitely stepped up. He knew he had to take charge and guide the team and continuously think positive. That was the biggest improvement he made this year.

12. Anthony Trevino, Kealakehe
Tallied 46 kills, 3 aces, 19 digs in three state-tourney matches, including 16 kills against Punahou.

Lee: “He’s a great jumper, swings a heavy ball. He’s a great leader and teammate. He pushes others to be their best and has a never give-up attitude. He fights to the last point. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win.”

13. Bradley Tacata, Waipahu
The junior had 22 kills and 11 digs in an upset win over Kaiser in the first round of the state tourney. He had 21 kills, 8 digs in a quarterfinal loss to Kealakehe.

Julna Pasicaran (Waipahu): “He brought mental toughness and is a good leader. He is an unselfish player/student who is always helping others in school and outside.”

14. Nate Johnson, Mililani
Johnson developed his attack tremendously despite being a latecomer to the sport. He had 19 kills in a win over Maui in the first round of the state tourney.

Niino: “The biggest thing that Nathaniel Johnson provided for our Team is his heart. He brings an energy that is unmatched.  He not only makes his teammates want to play better but he also makes me want to Coach better.  He’s a natural leader on and off the court.  Skill wise I am amazed at how far this kid has grown.  He started playing organized volleyball as a sophomore and within a few years he became one of the best hitters in the State. That is a true testament to his hard work and athleticism.”

15. Alaka‘i Todd, Punahou
Tune: “The best thing that Alaka‘i did this year is he embraced our competitive environment, which is something he didn’t do last year. You earn everything you get, nothing is given, and that’s one of the best things about our program. You get a sense of confidence that you belong there. He kept working and grinding and expanding his game. He’s playing the best volleyball that I’ve ever seen him play. He’s hitting intelligently and he’s seeing the game in a way that he didn’t before. It’s slowing down for him. With his incredible height and size, he’s going to be a force. He could end up being one of the best kids to come out of Hawaii from this year’s class in two or three years.”

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