The Bulldogs of Le Jardin don’t need any help to be a very good girls volleyball team.
But they appreciate all the help they can get. The Bulldogs improved to 4-1 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu with a stunning 25-23, 25-23 win over No. 9 Hawaii Baptist on Tuesday night. The win was epic for Le Jardin, which had never beaten the perennial D-II state powerhouse Eagles.
“We played them in the ILH championships and state championships,” senior setter Nina Krupa said.
It was quite a demonstration of balance and grit by LJA, a small private school at the foot of the Koolau Mountains. The arrival of former Maryknoll and Kahuku coach Lee Lamb has been a spark for the long-dormant program.
“He knows so much about the game,” said Krupa, who has played volleyball at LJA since the year she began attending the school as a seventh grader. “We’ve had good coaches, club coaches, but everything (Lamb) does is connected to volleyball.”
The other aspect of their epic victory is what their classmates did. The boys water polo team, which has a history of attending the matches, appeared just before the second set began. They jogged into the gym and took up a section of the bleachers, roughly 15 of them, roaring at high-decibel level for the rest of the night.
“Home crowd was amazing tonight,” Lamb said.
Instead of one or two dozen relatively quiet parents, the Bulldogs fed off the high energy of their swimmers, who happened to be dressed in their sporting attire: Speedos. And slippers.
Despite the Will Ferell look, or perhaps because of it, the water polo players captured the spirit of cheering and organized noise. It often had a college vibe.
Krupa knows the effect of a jolting home crowd well. LJA visited Damien last week, where the unbeaten football team cut practice short to walk into the gym and support their volleyball team.
LJA lost in three sets.
“When the home crowd is loud, every time your team makes a mistake, you can hear it and it really hurts,” Krupa said.
In highly competitive ILH Division II, small gyms can turn raucous with just a bit of student support. Damien knows it. LJA knows it. Defending champion HBA knows it too.
There’s something to be said for smaller schools and communities that show up and bring the kind of force that makes opponents wilt. There are many much larger schools that have a fraction of that passion.
“We knew they were coming,” Krupa said of her swimming friends. “We didn’t know they were going to run in (from the entrance).”
The immediate effect seemed negative as HBA took a 5-0 lead in that second set. Then LJA rolled off eight points in a row, and it was almost deafening for the rest of the night in Charles B. Wang Gymnasium.