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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 10, 2006

They're Spartans at heart, if not in school

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hitter Tri Bourne, left, and setter Nick Castello won't be in uniform tonight when Maryknoll seeks its first-ever boys state volleyball tournament berth. Neither player attends Maryknoll, but play for the Spartans because their respective schools do not have volleyball programs.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Life, sometimes, can be a tortuous Catch-22.

If the Maryknoll boys volleyball team did not have setter Nick Castello and opposite Tri Bourne this season, it most likely would not be in position tonight to play Mid-Pacific for what could be the school's first-ever state tournament berth. But to earn that long-awaited Division II berth, the Spartans (7-2) must play MPI (4-5) without Castello and Bourne, because the standout seniors do not attend Maryknoll.

Castello, a first-team all-Interscholastic League of Honolulu selection in 2005, attends ASSETS and Bourne, who is being recruited by several NCAA Division I programs, goes to Academy of the Pacific. Neither of those tiny schools fields a volleyball team, so Castello and Bourne have been playing for Maryknoll since their intermediate league days.

Hawai'i High School Athletic Association rules stipulate that "combination" teams are not eligible for its volleyball state tournaments, meaning if Maryknoll were to qualify, it would have to do so with only players from Maryknoll on its roster.

So while Castello and Bourne have been catalysts all season, they will be limited to street clothes and the bench tonight.

"I think the whole rule is kind of junk, because it's like they're punishing us for going to a small school," Castello said. "It's not our fault that our school doesn't have its own team."

At the same time, Castello said, "I'm excited for (the rest of the Spartans). I think they can do it even without me and Tri, and we'll be supporting them."

Bourne also laments being ineligible, but like Castello, he appreciates the opportunity to be playing varsity volleyball in the first place.

"I don't really get the (HHSAA) rule, and it's disappointing to not get the chance to go to states," Bourne said. "But if it wasn't for Maryknoll, I wouldn't even have a team, so I feel lucky to even be playing."

The Spartans feel just as fortunate on their end.

At 6 feet 4, Bourne is a powerful force and causes serious matchup problems for opposing teams. Ohio State already has offered him a 25-percent scholarship, a good amount since the NCAA limits men's volleyball teams to a total of 4.5 full scholarships. Bourne also is being recruited by Southern California, Pepperdine and Cal State Northridge, and Hawai'i has been in contact.

Simeon Ke-Paloma, who will help fill the void of Castello tonight, said not having Bourne will make "a huge difference."

"Now there's no 'go-to' guy, so it's kind of hard," Ke-Paloma said. "We're not the same team."

Castello's absence will have a similar impact. At 5-6, he is not an imposing presence, but his ability to find openings in the defense and put up perfect sets from all angles has been invaluable, Bourne said.

"I think Nick and (Punahou's) Riley McKibbin are the best setters in the state," Bourne said. "Riley's taller and he can jump, but Nick is unreal because he's fast and real smart he reads the blockers and gets you into one-on-one situations. He can get to balls from anywhere, and his sets are amazing. It helps our hitters so much."

With Castello and Bourne in the lineup, the Spartans have been able to compete against some of the state's best teams, regardless of division. Maryknoll was two points away from sweeping perennial power Kamehameha two weeks ago before losing 19-25, 26-24, 25-13. Then last Tuesday, the Spartans shocked defending state runner-up 'Iolani, 18-25, 25-21, 25-12.

"We had never beaten one of the big schools before," Castello said, "so it was a big win for us."

Bourne added, "I didn't want to graduate without beating one of those teams even once."

Tonight's match can be just as significant if Maryknoll is able to win without its dynamic duo.

"It feels like we have two different teams, because with them, we're Division I," Spartans coach Shawn Doo said. "But I think we'll be OK."

Despite attending different schools, Bourne and Castello say they have always felt welcome at Maryknoll. Castello, who is dyslexic, attends ASSETS because the school specializes in students with special needs. Bourne receives a tuition waiver at AOP, where his father teaches.

But for tonight, as they have been the past five years, they are loyal Spartans.

"Everybody knows us (at Maryknoll), and they treat us like we go here," Castello said. "Even if we can't play, we'll do what we can to help them go to states."

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com.