Three people were asked if Falanika Danielson has improved over a year ago.
All three said yes.
Now a senior, Danielson — a 5-foot-6 Mililani outside hitter who finished No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s All-State Girls Volleyball Fab 15 a year ago — was one of those asked.
Here’s her first-hand account:
“I believe I did improve, especially on different shots and my vertical and me being able to see the block and what’s open. I’ve also been improving on my arm swing, not just the strength but the speed as well.”
Danielson delivered 18 kills Wednesday night in the fourth-ranked Trojans’ 25-16, 25-16, 25-13 sweep of No. 10 Waianae in an OIA West first-place showdown.
“We got off to a good start and then it got tight when we got a little complacent and then we got our rhythm back,” Danielson added.
Waianae setter Gabby Canionero also noticed that Danielson’s blasts are coming in hotter and heavier than they were in 2018.
In addition, Mililani sophomore hitter Aria Miller was in the affirmative as to Danielson’s stepping up a notch.
“Falanika works on her shots and she’s so consistent,” said Miller, who put down nine kills and had a whopping six aces in the victory. “We covered a lot (of ground on defense), focused on playing our positions, knowing our spots and knowing where to go on defense.”
Miller’s sister, senior Aysia Miller, ran an efficient offense for the Trojans (4-0), finishing with 22 assists. Libero Mariah Fukumoto spearheaded the team’s tight defense.
“Aysia is doing really good,” Danielson said about Aysia. “She is originally an outside and for school season she is a setter. I’m amazed at the way she executes different plays.”
The Trojans, who won the 2018 OIA title and made it to the Division I state semifinals before losing to eventual champion ‘Iolani, are pushing to go farther this time around.
“We can definitely be better than last year,” Danielson said. “A lot of teams are sort of more even as far as the type of game they play, the intensity and the competitiveness. A lot of seniors from Kamehameha, Punahou and ‘Iolani graduated. We have a chance. We didn’t lose much. We lost a little height, but I believe we still have ball control and that will keep us alive in the games.
“Tonight, we were high energy and staying positive and sticking to the basics and that really helped us.”
The Seariders (4-1), according to coach Dan Kitashima, have only one starter back from a year ago — libero Chevy Wagner.
But he feels the competitiveness of the Waianae squad is going to get better.
“We definitely know that we can get there (to the playoffs),” Kitashima said. “We definitely have some stuff to clean up. We’ve taken a lot of strides. We’ll get there by the playoffs.”
About Danielson and the Millers and the rest of the veteran Mililani team, Kitashima said. “They showed their experience. They know how to hit the ball, where to hit the ball and when to hit the ball.”
Even though they swept the Seariders, the Trojans didn’t forget how good Waianae — which lost to Kamehameha-Hawaii in the first round of the D-I state tournament last year — can be.
“I think they have way more than (what they showed tonight),” Aria Miller said. “Chevy, the libero, is amazing. Everyone on that team is amazing and I really think they could have done better.”
Kalei Irvine and Jahnay Jardine had five kills apiece to power the Seariders’ attack. Shania Kepoo-Caspino added four.
“I think it was just in our head,” Canionero, the setter, said. “They’re (the Trojans) a really good team. Sometimes we get too excited and think about it too much. Sometimes that can mess up our game a little bit. Coach Dan always says he wants to keep building each week, each game, build up and if we hit states, then we’ll be exactly where we want to be.
“We could have done better and could have come out on top.”