Moanalua defense predicated on the ‘Hula’

Moanalua's Hula Crisostomo ran down a ball during an Aug. 31 match against Farrington. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s Hula Crisostomo ran down a ball during an Aug. 31 match against Farrington. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Moanalua’s defense was so good on Thursday night that it made Hawaii Prep World wonder what was making it click.

During the late stages of a three-set sweep of Kailua in the OIA quarterfinals, all it took was a look over the shoulder of the statistician to see that junior libero Hula Crisostomo was the dig leader with 11.

That was enough evidence, since Crisostomo is the little one at 5 feet 1 in the back row and sometimes takes a back seat for those volleyball watchers who are looking for the big smash and not the diving save.

Well, let’s hear what Na Menehune head coach Alan Cabanting had to say about Crisostomo’s value to the team, especially the defensive side.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Cabanting said, when asked if Crisostomo is what makes the defense work. “She’s one of those few girls who can read the ball and see it and understand, so we’ve been blessed. Not only can she read it, she is one of those who is so vocal. As she’s making plays and moving things around, she’s so vocal that everybody knows, ‘OK she’s right there.’ Everybody trusts. Even with the boisterous crowds we have, they can still hear her. For our other upcoming liberos and defensive specialists, it’s great to see her as a role model and how loud you should be when you are in that position.”

Crisostomo, before going out on the court for the third set, slapped the hands of every player on the bench. She started slowly and spent a bit more time with the first few players in line. But then she realized the set was going to start, so she hurried through and took her position.

Cabanting said that’s just the way she is.

“She’s animated and she’s all about the team,” he said. “She’s all about everybody getting better. It makes practice fun, and it makes the team so much closer together.”

By jiminy. How many coaches say that a player makes practice fun?

Cabanting said he has had to change some things around that he normally wouldn’t do so that Crisostomo is front and center as far as the defense goes.

“The trend nowadays is to put the libero in the middle back,” he said. “And I will usually put our outside there if I feel the outside can truly stay in that middle back position. But when you have Hula who can dig like that, your beliefs of what it should be get thrown out because of just how good she is in reading and digging. When she’s not in there, the outside goes to the middle back right away.

“Our middles trust that back row so much that if they’re late on the block and they know it’s going to leave a hole, they know they have Hula to figure out where that hole is and step in it.”

Amber Tai, who led Kailua with eight kills in Thursday’s match, had numerous other swings dug up by Crisostomo and Moanalua’s other intense defenders.

“Amber saw big holes in our block and Hula stepped into that hole and dug a couple, which forced Amber to think about her attacks and it forced a couple of errors on her,” Cabanting said.

Crisostomo takes her defense seriously.

Right after the introduction to her highlight video, just as the action is about to start, the first word on the screen is “Defense.”

You can watch the video here:

Na Menehune (11-1) will play Mililani (11-0) on Tuesday in the OIA semifinals at McKinley. They’re going for their third league title in a row and they’ve already qualified for their 15th straight Division I state tournament.


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