Coaches intrigued by idea of OIA-ILH alignment in girls volleyball

Mililani's Aysia Miller (7) had 36 assists in a five-set win over Kapolei in the only match the Trojans haven't swept during the regular season this year. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Mililani volleyball standout hitter Falanika Danielson was asked recently if she liked the OIA’s new five-set format.

Her answer gave a clear picture that the league’s competition is out of balance.

“I like playing five sets, but I would rather play five with teams that have the same level,” she said. “It gets draggy. I’m not trying to downgrade anybody, but sometimes matches end with lopsided scores like 25-8, 28-9, 25-8.”

In the ensuing dialog, Danielson brought up an idea that would help the OIA avoid dreaded mismatches.

“I know our coaches are talking about trying to establish, like football, the Open, Division I and Division II … so we would mix in with the ILH and play top teams over and over again rather than playing all of the other teams around the (OIA) West. It would be good and competitive and keep us playing at a higher level. … Incorporate more of the top OIA and the top ILH together — because we have the ability to stay up with them (the ILH).”

From an idea on paper to a new three-tier (instead of two) format, however, is likely to be a challenging process, even if an overwhelming majority of people involved wanted to go in that direction.

Two coaches Hawaii Prep World reached out to are all for it, but the two leagues’ volleyball administrators spelled out the would-be difficulties of making such an idea happen.

Deren Oshiro, the Hawaii Baptist athletic director and volleyball coordinator for the ILH, mentioned his league has not formally discussed any type of agreement with the OIA.

But, Oshiro said, “Other people outside the league have asked me about it. If it happened, I’m not sure how all that would work. I think like anything else, the devil is in the details. In the ILH (from intermediate to varsity), we have up to 65 teams playing 400 matches. We have more than enough teams to play. Everyone would want to see exciting matchups and level playing field, but logistically, it would be really difficult.”

The football alliance made by the OIA and ILH that brought a full slate of interleague competition in Open, D-I and D-II came about for a variety of reasons. For one, the ILH has only six varsity football teams and was in desperate need of competition. For another, the OIA was suffering from an uneven playing field that, at times, put children in harm’s way when a perennially strong team with 60-plus players was suiting up against a traditionally weaker school scrambling to field a full team on the field every week. The benefit for the OIA was also boosted with the influx of $1 million per year from the community to be divided among its member schools for the two years of the pilot program.

The need for the leagues to align for volleyball is not nearly the same as it was for football, and there’s no guarantee there would be any community financial help if volleyball went on the three-tier path. In addition, there are no safety issues like in football, where the likelihood was high of a first-year player in the starting lineup facing an all-league, D-I college recruit.

Even though the ILH has enough teams to compete against, the private-school league did make a drastic change this year due to not enough teams in its top level. Instead of four squads (‘Iolani, Punahou, Kamehameha, Maryknoll) playing in D-I, the ILH brought up four of its stronger D-II schools (Le Jardin, Mid-Pacific, Sacred Hearts, Hawaii Baptist) to enhance the competition.

On the OIA side, the wide disparity of levels is obvious.

>> In 97 matches so far this season, 65 were won in a three-set sweep (67 percent).

>> In those 97 matches, 34 ended with one team failing to score at least 20 points in any of the three sets (34 percent).

One possibility, without the two leagues having to commit resources to bring about some sort of alliance, could be for the OIA to institute three divisions within its own schedule instead of two.

“That’s something that would have to be introduced as a proposal to the (OIA’s) AD council and they would have to vote on it,” OIA volleyball coordinator and Kalani AD Greg Van Cantfort said.

Van Cantfort, however, was not speaking about the idea of aligning with the ILH, which he believes would be a lot more difficult to do.

“It’s (breaking the OIA into three tiers) kind of intriguing, I think,” Van Cantfort said. “You’ve got some elite teams, mid-range teams and weaker teams. It would be a possibility worth discussing. Another way it could come to us is at the coaches’ evaluation meeting. To go to interleague right now, I wouldn’t necessarily see that. If you do it for one sport, then it opens up other sports wanting to do it. What’s next? Boys basketball, girls basketball? Or soccer, where we have huge blowouts. (Because of the two leagues’ autonomy), I don’t see a lot of people going for that.”

Two coaches of powerful volleyball programs, one from the OIA and one from the ILH, would be all for three divisions at the league and state level with some kind of OIA-ILH alignment.

“I’m absolutely for it,” Punahou coach Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson said. “I know a bunch of us have talked with the coaches at our level and everyone would definitely be open and consider that option. I know the coaches from the OIA side who I have spoken with would welcome that. We’ll see. I don’t even know if that’s a possibility. We love the idea. It would help balance things out in the state tournament, but it’s an administrative decision.”

Said Alan Cabanting of the OIA’s Moanalua Na Menehune: “It would be awesome. The more we play the top ILH teams the better. Now, we don’t get to play them until the very end. Tradition has been on the ILH side. If we get used to playing them match in and match out, it will be better for our kids.

“It would allow our kids to understand … whether they’re at Mililani or Moanalua or Kahuku, even if they don’t go to a private school, they’re still going to be playing those teams. It allows for colleges to see all of our teams, not only in the ILH, but also exposes the public school kids who otherwise would not be exposed to be able to go to play in college.”

Kahuku of the OIA was the last public-school team to win a Division I state tournament — in 2002.

Last year, Mililani finished third at states in D-II, followed by Kahuku in fourth and Moanalua in sixth.


  1. Tia Thompson (Kahuku Asst. Coach) September 30, 2019 2:41 pm

    I’m all for this ILH/OIA merge! I brought this up at our OIA coach’s meeting last year after the season held at Campbell HS because I’m tired of seeing the ILH win every year and I can’t wait another 20 years for an OIA school to win or any other school other than the ILH since we won it all in 2002. We were told “it comes down to money, not matches played, what do we have to offer the ILH?” ILH football paid the OIA to combine the competition, not sure if that’t true or not however that’s exactly what was said during the meeting. For me, I’m sure this will work out, we just need to get the logistics figured out, maybe a two year pilot trial like football.

  2. ILH September 30, 2019 3:11 pm

    Genuinely curious.
    How does a merge help in winning a championship?

    Also, I think the OIA is going to end the football merger after this year.

    Who won states in 2002?

  3. Opinion September 30, 2019 8:35 pm

    The ILH begged for combining with the OIA in football because nobody wanted to see Kamehameha, Punahou and St. Louis play each other 3 times a season. The OIA has enough teams to play football without the ILH. Kamehameha has the only stadium in D1 football in the ILH that can charge admission which means all the big matchups get played at Aloha Stadium where rent is high and crowds are down with a 3 team league. Simple solution: the OIA should say either volleyball combines with the ILH or the OIA football teams will separate from the ILH. Watch how fast the ILH Athletic Directors make it happen. HBAs AD stated that the ILH has enough volleyball to compete without the OIA. Well the OIA has way more then enough quality football teams to compete without the ILH.

  4. Tia Thompson (Kahuku Asst. Coach) September 30, 2019 9:43 pm


    We did, Kahuku.


    I totally agree!!! The OIA has more teams then the ILH in all sports. The difference is the competition level. The OIA works with athletes that comes out of our community. The ILH can cherry pick any athlete for any sport from any island.

  5. The Truth September 30, 2019 10:18 pm

    If left up to coaches and players… they would be in favor. If left to OIA administrators, no way in heck.

    Players and coaches love the competition… love to compete. OIA administrators… too much pride and bitterness.

    Maybe bring this up in the next 5 to 10 years after the old guard leaves. The new young administrators will welcome the competition and not have any grudges.

  6. Tokotoko September 30, 2019 10:48 pm

    Interesting concept indeed. However, if there will be an open division in volleyball, how many ILH teams would be included in that division, and how many state tournament births would the ILH receive from that division? It seems unfair if they’d only get 1 or 2 births, given the fact that year-in-and year-out the top 3 (if not 4) teams in the state come from the ILH. Some worthy teams would be left out in the cold….just my opinion.

  7. Opinion October 1, 2019 5:18 am

    Tia Thompson

    Agree with you also. Same can be said for football the ILH has kids from across the island. Problem the ILH has was having only 3 teams in D1. OIA football is self sustainable, having games played on campus and drawing large crowds. The merger was done more for the ILH.
    Volleyball could create an Open division similar to football where Mililani, Moanalua, Kahuku and Kapolei would play against Punahou, Iolani and Kamehameha. The ILH would get berths depending on how many teams are in the division. As it is now the OIA doesn’t count its games against ILH teams in the standings; the ILH does. A similar format could be followed on a 1 or 2 year trial period.

  8. Vinny Tapu October 1, 2019 8:50 am

    If a merger for an open division is done, all games should count not only for the ILH teams, but for the OIA as well. You want to play in the best division in the State, then treat it like a game and not just as a glorified scrimmage. By not counting games in the won-lost column, you might as well call it a scrimmage.

  9. ILH October 1, 2019 11:25 am

    Why would you want to merge volleyball?
    Youre going to run into the same pathetic complaints you use for ILH football.

    On one hand you’re saying we dont need football because they recruit statewide and then say lets create an open division for volleyball. Even more crazy, you recommending leveraging the continued existence of the football merger, as unfair as you paint it along with OIA dont need it, so that ILH ADS will make this volleyball merger happen.

    As Coach Tia humbly shared, she dont want to wait another 20 years for a non ILH team win the championship, like they, Kahuku, did in 2002. #humblebrag So lets do the merger? Why, how does this help you win a championship?

    I know why you want the merger. Because its good for the sport and the players. I can dig that. But you cannot condemn one and not the other.

  10. Falcon Future October 1, 2019 1:52 pm

    I don’t know if merging leagues for regular season is the answer right now. The ILH teams are too far ahead. All you need to know is that Kahuku won states in 2002, but ILH teams have played each other in every state championship match since then. That’s 16 straight years of ILH vs. ILH in the title game. The streak will continue this year with Iolani vs. Kamehameha/Punahou.

    If there were a open division this year, Iolani, Kamehameha and Punahou would be 1-2-3. All the “good” OIA teams like Moanalua, Kahuku, Mililani, etc., would have losses to the three ILH powers plus losses against each other. Staying in the OIA at least gives these teams a chance to experience winning and taking the OIA title before going to states.

    You can’t compare it to football because OIA football teams like Kahuku and Mililani beat ILH teams for state championships in recent memory and they can still compete on that top level.

  11. Opinion October 1, 2019 5:16 pm

    Vinny Tatupu

    U do realize that the OIA doesn’t count football games against the ILH? Why is that ok?
    Falcon future
    Punahou and St. Louis will more then likely go undefeated against OIA teams in football Again how does that differ in volleyball?

  12. Vinny Tapu October 1, 2019 9:29 pm

    Opinion, I’m not saying it’s ok – to the contrary I think it’s chicken not to count every single regular season game! I’m not sure what you’re reading.

  13. Opinion October 2, 2019 5:25 am

    Vinny Tatupu
    I understand what you’re saying but football has done it that way for 2 years now. Wouldn’t be a reason to roadblock a volleyball merger.

  14. Falcon Future October 2, 2019 10:09 am

    @Opinion, your statement to me in #11 is based off this year only. My statement is based on recent history. I will put it this way in comparing girls volleyball to football:

    From 2003 to 2018, the girls volleyball state championship game was ILH vs. ILH in EVERY SINGLE YEAR! If that does not explain league dominance to you, then I don’t know what else to say.

    For football from 2003 to 2018, Kahuku (6), Mililani (1) and Leilehua (1) all won state championships for the OIA. St. Louis (4), Kamehameha (2) and Punahou (2) all won state championships for the ILH. That’s competitive balance.

    Yes, I understand that St. Louis is dominating right now but they were also dominating 20 years ago until Kahuku adjusted. There is a general feeling that schools like Kahuku and Mililani can compete with the ILH and are capable of fielding nationally-ranked teams in any given year.

    For volleyball, there is a general feeling that nobody in the OIA comes close to Punahou, Kamehameha and Iolani and nobody in the OIA is even close to being on the national scene like the ILH.

  15. Opinion October 2, 2019 11:35 am

    Falcon future
    So don’t even give the OIA schools and opportunity to compete in volleyball against the ILH is what you’re saying cause they have no chance?

  16. Falcon Future October 2, 2019 1:11 pm

    ^^^ The OIA schools and the other leagues all get a chance in the state tournament for volleyball.

    Exceptions were made for football due to safety factors and the added revenue that could be made through ticket sales. Neither of those things would come into play for girls volleyball.

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