Coaches chime in on Girls Volleyball All-State’s top 5

'Iolani’s Elena Oglivie is the fifth player ever to make the All-State team four years in a row. She won player of the year twice and finished runner-up twice. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser

Talent. Heart. Performance. Glory.

The 2019 Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball All-State Fab 15, released in today’s edition, is chock full of those ingredients — as always. Volleyball players in Hawaii land at the college level often, and the Fab 15 are no exception. The top five of this year’s list, voted by coaches and media, had a bit more consideration than usual.

Here’s what some of coaches from elite prep programs said about this year’s top players in the Fab 15: No. 1 Keonilei Akana of Kamehameha, No. 2 Elena Oglivie of ‘Iolani, No. 3 Falanika Danielson of Mililani, No. 4 Kaia Dunford of Punahou and No. 5 Tara De Sa of Kamehameha.

What impressed you most about these players and who do they remind you of?

>> Keonilei Akana
Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson, Punahou coach: Keonilei is a beast of an athlete. Mark Twain’s quote comes to mind when I think of Klei: ”It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog.” She’s not the tallest, strongest or has the highest vertical but that does not matter to Klei. She has proven that she has more than skills to lead her team to a championship. I don’t think that Klei sees any situation on the court as impossible. She’s resilient in finding ways to win the next point, set, and match. I watched her lead by example fearlessly and she makes everyone around her play better. Her ability to be poised and perform under tough situations, consistently, are signs that she’s equipped for next-level play. 

Val Crabbe, Mililani coach: She can play all around. She can pretty much do everything across the front and she can do everything across the back. Her, Nika (Danielson) and (Elena) Oglivie, their front and back row are spot on. I think the consideration for the top would be one of those three. They’ve been impact players for their schools for their whole careers since they were freshmen. They have been impact players for four years.

Her demeanor on the court, it’s not just about her. She’s about the success of her team, and she’s willing to anything. You look at where they finished, and they finished on top. Oglivie has had a great career, but they weren’t there. (Akana’s) presence, I would go with her. The one she reminds me of is Jordan Keamu, but the difference is none of these girls have ever been a setter. Jordan did everything and she could set. The other person was (Mililani S/OPP) Aysia Miller.

Kainoa Obrey, ‘Iolani coach: Her composure and leadership helped her team succeed. Trust in herself to make plays seemed to rub off on her team.

Chris Blake, Kamehameha coach: What impressed me the most was her singular drive to be successful. Her work ethic in our weight room, track and court was infectious and she led by example. She showed others what was expected and helped others to achieve it. She was not afraid of greatness. She did her job and executed and did it well.

>> Elena Oglivie
Blake: As an player who could take over matches at any time, she does so many things well. It is much more than her offense. She has amazing court vision and is able to take all of her experiences and utilize them when similar situations occur in matches. She was efficient and her arm swing is smooth and powerful. She has great footwork and would be able to adapt to different situations. She also was very composed when playing and this steadying force has helped her teams to be even keeled in their matches. She is a generational player. She helped to provide great play, coupled with leadership and was a part of great success individually and for her ‘Iolani volleyball teams. We have nothing but respect and admiration for the success that she has had in Hawaii and representing USA in competition.

Fuamatu-Anderson: What an exciting player to watch. I don’t think that there’s  anyone in the state that attacks the ball with consistent power, intellect and range. What’s even more impressive is her ball control-she can pass and play defense  which is not very common across the nation. Watching as an outsider, I saw her lead by example, passion, fire and humility.                                    
Crabbe: A lot of people watching her hitting. It wasn’t my type of playing. You swing 50 million times a game. It’s a different game. I kind of felt sorry for those other girls. In their school, they preach ‘One Team’, but when you watch their volleyball, that wasn’t the case. Those girls, they do well. Do I think she’s a good player? Yeah, she’s a good player. I would compare her to what Shoji used to do, which is this person is the go-to, and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s just not my type of playing. He did it with Kanani Danielson. Nikki Taylor. Some people say it should be her based on history, but I think you’ve got to be at the last dance.

Obrey: Her ability to work hard and be better each time is impressive. She was a humble leader and took nothing for granted.

>> Falanika Danielson
Blake: She plays with great heart and is very productive  offensively for her team. She is a very driven player and you can see it when she plays. She plays with a confidence. As she has matured as a player she has developed that ability to lead and to lead by example and expects her team to follow her lead. She has the ability to “will” her team to victory.

Fuamatu-Anderson: The word that comes to my mind when I think of Nika is confidence. Being an undersized outside hitter did not stop her from being one of the top volleyball players in the state. She proved time and time again that size does not matter… heart and hard work does! She reminds me of her big sis, Kanani. They both are confident and they know how to win.                                      
Obrey: Falanika was steady for her team and she seemed to step up in crucial spots.

Crabbe: Her front row made it easier, and when she got there to the front, it wasn’t the same (in the back row). She got the ball to Aysia better. She plays above her height. She plays larger than 5-6. I’d like to see her go to a D-I. She kind of decommitted from Temple, I think. She’s probably looking for more options. She’s going to do the combine that’s coming up. One of the biggest things that’s a plus that I don’t really hear about the other girls is she’s a communicator. In this game. You don’t see it. We talk about it, but everyone is so quiet. It’s kind of a trend these days. People aren’t as talkative, and that’s one of Nika’s biggest strengths. She plays lights out. Her communication is really, she’s good at it. She really is. She communicates with everybody on the court. It’s important to her. As good as she is, you don’t find that with other players, picking them up. I don’t see that. She can be a real good team supporter on and off the court. One thing she has is her arm swing is fast. Tita Ahuna is a good comparison. She was overall like this, and she really communicated. She’s a good one. That’s the thing. They have to communicate and she was, hard to find vocal people. Tita was like that.

>> Kaia Dunford
Blake: Kaia was an important part of her team’s success this year. Coming off of a shoulder injury last high school season, she was driven to get back on the court to be able to help.her team. From the start of the season, she had a solid mindset to continue to improve and succeed. She has great range and able to hit all spots on the court. Her consistency was integral in her team’s performance and success this season.

Crabbe: Dunford is definitely better (than before). She can play the back row.

Obrey: When she played well, Punahou played well. She has a high volleyball IQ and having her healthy this year impacted Punahou’s success.

Fuamatu-Anderson: I see Kaia as the kid that’s been flying under the volleyball radar. About a year ago, she underwent shoulder surgery and missed her junior school year season. She rehabbed during club season and had limited time as a hitter. We started the season with five outside hitters, but due to injuries, our number quickly dwindled to three during the preseason. Kaia quickly stepped up as one of the leaders on the court. Her teammates were able to follow her lead in the huddle and on the court. She modeled ‘walking her talk’ which quickly helped to build trust with her teammates. Kaia is one of the few hitters I’ve have the pleasure of coaching, that have a plethora of shots and she was pretty good at knowing when to use them.  She too, is comfortable playing six rotations and will do well at the next level.                                                     
>> Tara De Sa
Crabbe: She reads good. De Sa is good.

Fuamatu-Anderson: I was impressed by her consistency. I liked her even-keel mentality. She reminds me of Kamehameha alum Mia Heirakuji.

Obrey: She made some big digs at the right moments. She would string together some really good plays.

Blake: Tara made an impressive impact on our team this season. She was a rock for us in serve reception and held down the majority of the left side of the court on defense. She made a huge commitment to be a communicator this season and it made her the anchor of what we did on defense. She has great vision and confidence in her skills and coupled with her communication with her teammates made our team defense formidable for opponents. Although very analytical, and she watches video to hone her technique, she also has the ability to compartmentalize each play and to move on to the next play, regardless of the last play’s outcome. A great quality for her position and will help.her to success at the next level. She is another one in long line of successful liberos what will be able to play at the next level. Kekai Crabbe, Cassidee Young, Lesli Akeo, Kalehua Katagiri, Chelsea Keoho, Kyra Hanawahine, Kealani Ontai, Paris Oliveira and many others.


  1. Kawika Sharpley November 25, 2019 3:53 pm

    I read the article a couple of times and so nice of the Coaches to give their thoughts on these outstanding players. Not sure if they were given much time to think about it but good job for the most part. I had to reread Coach Crabbe write up on Elena Oglivie of Iolani. This is the only instance in the whole article that came off negative. Coach Crabbe didn’t really have much good to say but “seemed” to attack Iolani approach on how they used Elena. Took a swipe at the Iolani “One Team” mantra too. Wow, maybe it was a compliment since she may not of liked it but compared it to the Hall of Fame Coach Dave Shoji. Big props being compared to the all time Kanani and Nikki though. Just seemed odd considering the premise of the question. What impressed you most about these players and who do they remind you of? Missed the point or better off not saying much if anything.

  2. Charli Damelio November 25, 2019 11:18 pm

    Perhaps you should eliminate your bias when considering the talents of these girls. The efforts put forth by these individuals are all astounding and I think it’s funny that you found a way to focus on your Mililani players when they aren’t the focus of this article. (Honestly ignore her input, she’s failed to give an accurate analysis of these player’s talents)

  3. Charli Damelio November 25, 2019 11:22 pm

    I agree with Kawika…

    Crabbe is looking at Elena with such a narrow-minded perspective. Attacking the ‘one team’ motto, however, is even more unacceptable. Each player on that ‘Iolani team had a role and you cannot deny that. Bias PERIODT.

  4. ? November 26, 2019 1:00 pm

    So sad that all the comments on these five girls were not all positive. 4 out the 5 are six rotational players who all can pass and hit. Their volleyball IQ is higher than most. All five of them are communicators who are not individual players but play for the team. They all were the most consistent through out the whole season not just states.

  5. Old Timer..........Fan of the Game December 3, 2019 2:30 pm

    Adding my two cents: all these ladies are ballers and to be great you need some talent but most of all it’s the willingness to work hard and become a student of the game that puts you among the elite. An amazing senior class.

    # Keonilei with the depth that Kamehameha carries year in year out it was tough to crack that line up her freshmen year. She waited her time and there was no denying her a starting position her sophomore year. I believe Chris Blake recognized he had a gem. It’s clear she is a winner and we’ve seen her improve her game from year to year; passing, digging and this year elevated to new heights her hitting. She plays with a confidence that her teammates feed off of. Watching her play defense is like watching a leopard stalk and attack her prey. She is tenacious and reads the game like everyone else is in slow motion. IQ through the roof. That ability can frustrate an opponent. She always looking to get better and not afraid to take the last swing. Won a championship without her sister who was the best middle in the states her junior and senior year.

    # Elena jumped on to the seen as the “Baby Faced Assassin” nicknamed by Kevin Wong her freshmen year on OC16. Recognized for her offense but it’s her fluid defense and passing that separates her from being a very good 3 rotation to great 6 rotation player. It’s the subtle moves to position herself is where the homework pays off. When you watch her game it is smooth and she tends to make it look easy. Calm under pressure and seems to make the right play; 1st, 2nd or 3rd contact. Volleyball IQ is built on repetition over the years on and off the court. Read and sees things before they happen. She covers half the court on serve receive and has done it at the international level. The international balls are known to be more difficult to pass. I watched Kamehameha play a Japanese all-star team a couple of years ago and those international balls move a lot. Her play looks like she is a student of the game and her teammates gravitate towards her. Best passer in my book.

    # Danielson was actually out of position early in her freshmen year but coach Crabbe realized she needed to move Falanika from libero to OH. Not sure if it was injury or necessity but it was the right move. A star was born and Mililani climbed the ranks in OIA. She has the blood line of greatness. I watched her play the last several years and it was like watching fire that you can’t contain. Small in stature but huge on courage as she attacked the blocks. She knows when to take over a match and plays to her strengths. Another high IQ player that sees the court well. Heard she is uncommitted; a school will grab her up by the end of the Hawaii combine if not sooner. Once they see her play she’ll pass the eyeball test. She knows how to direct traffic on the court and gets after it with strong motor.

    # Dunford is a little unknown at the varsity level until this year. Like Kamehameha the past years depth at Punahou has made varsity turn into a waiting list to get on the roster. Kaia is a player and can pass better than most people realize. Between, Tara , Elena and Kaia they had the most court responsibility on serve receive. Punahou strengths was their size that created difficulty for defenders. Kaia is a good blocker and grew her offensive game throughout the 2019 campaign. It was fun to watch her also grow in confidence from the beginning of the season through the playoffs. She seems quiet but plays a big game. I see lots of upside and bright future at Oral Roberts.

    # Tara was lights out on defense and she demonstrated her range in serve receive. She can jump in and take balls in coverage from other good passers lined up next to her. Chris Blake definitely gave her the green light. Tara and all of these 5 gifted players covered a large portion of the court on defense too. Tara’s play this year was not a surprise to me. She showed she can handle the role last year with Kamehameha starting libero out earlier in the 2018. Physically she took on hard driven balls that would knock down other defenders. She seemed to relish her job. Cal got themselves a good one. She made critical plays that helped Kamehameha win the championship. Chris and staff have a libero factory. Tara seems low key but you can tell she loves to compete. You want her in your corner.

  6. ? December 4, 2019 5:52 pm

    @OldTimer. Should have you do more write-ups.

  7. ? December 5, 2019 6:01 am

    @oldtimer. Yes you should do more write ups! These girls seem very humble in their achievements also. They will will do well in the next phase of their career. Good luck to them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email