They are ready to rumble for years to come.
Na Menehune of Moanalua have nine freshmen on their softball roster this spring. The lone returnees are junior Shyrie Santella-Delima and sophomore Tori Villarmia. Coach Gordon Fernandez has high hopes for what may be the youngest varsity team in OIA softball.
“I expect a lot of my freshman to make immediate impacts while learning on the fly,” he said. “Marley Espiau, Maila Taga, Eva Kameoka, Kamryn Miyataki, Kayla Mashino, Taryn Kimura, and Kiana Pasion, will all be expected to grow up right away.”
“Our team leaders are Shyrie and Tori. The freshmen respect them due to the fact that they’ve already played at the varsity level. More importantly though, I think the younger players have seen the work ethic that both Shyrie and Tori display on a daily basis. They come early and they constantly push themselves to get better. That kind of example rubs off on the rest of the team,” Fernandez said.
Most of the nine freshmen are expected to start, he added.
“We are going to be very young and inexperienced this year. Every game this season I expect to start at least seven freshmen and one sophomore. There’s going to be some growing pains, but I’m excited about this group and their potential. Things are going to be exciting at Moanalua in the years to come,” Fernandez said.
Moanalua opened OIA play with a 5-all tie against Kalani on Tuesday. Na Menehune play at Kaiser on Saturday.
The cancellation of the 2020 spring season and the limitations generated by the COVID-19 pandemic have been unique.
“Preseason has been a lot different. There haven’t been many scrimmages, and whereas we used to have a couple of preseason tournaments, this year we haven’t had any. This was a big deal for us because our team is so young. We could have used the preseason to accelerate the learning process. This was obviously due to COVID, but the reality is, I think players, parents, and coaches alike, are just happy that we’re even getting a shortened season,” Fernandez said.
The adjustment to protocols has been embraced.
“Returning to the field has been more exciting than in the past. While it’s been an adjustment with wearing masks, constantly using hand-sanitizer, and constantly cleaning up equipment after use, everyone seems to be smiling throughout. I think we all appreciate being back,” the coach said. “We’ve felt what it was like without sports for a year, and I don’t think anyone will take softball for granted again.”