Seabury sets sights on DII title
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
The options are abundant for Seabury Hall's Holden Awong.
When the senior setter gets the ball into the air, any of his teammates can put the ball down. On this experienced and tight-knit squad, everybody on the court is an option on offense.
"I can throw the ball up and know the ball will go down," Awong said. "It's easier if one of the hitters is off, I can set up somebody else.
"The other team can key on somebody else and I can move the ball around. It's easier with five other people on the court."
The third-seeded Spartans (9-0) — who have size, return their entire starting lineup and had an impressive preseason tournament showing — could make a serious run for the Division II title in this week's New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships.
"Definitely the most complete team (in Division II)," said Teoni Obrey, coach of two-time Division II champion Hawai'i Baptist (18-3). "They can pass the ball, they serve the ball well, they have two big physical middle blockers, they have a go-to opposite. Their setter has got to be one of the top setters in the states ... they're really, really complete."
The 12-team DI tournament starts today at Kaimukī and McKinley. The eight-team DII tournament starts tomorrow at Farrington and Kalani. Championship matches are Saturday at McKinley. Punahou (20-0) is the defending DI champion.
Seabury Hall lost a thrilling five-set match to Hilo in last year's state semifinals. It showed what a team with just one senior could do. Awong said the Spartans hurt themselves with errors, and had they been minimized, they would have had a chance.
"The experience of having such a close game and barely missing the final game brought us closer," said senior middle blocker Josh Chapple. "It will definitely help us going into the state championship."
It was more reason to work harder in the offseason. Chapple and several of his teammates joined a Maui club team.
"We've been able to play all year-round, which has definitely boosted the level of volleyball on Maui, and the people who didn't play club were able to boost their game by meeting up with us," Chapple said. "It's brought more competition to all of Maui and to our practices as well."
The travel this season has brought the team even closer. Seabury Hall finished eighth at 'Iolani's Hawai'i Volleyball Invitational in March. The Spartans, whose starting lineup ranges from 5 feet 10 to 6 feet 4, won their pool before dropping a close three-set match to 'Iolani (16-14 in Set 3) and then a close two-set match to Hawai'i Baptist. Seabury Hall, the Maui Interscholastic League champion, had league games at Lāna'i, and Moloka'i.
"The chemistry is really the best we ever hard," Seabury Hall coach Caleb Palmer said. "In years past, we felt really good and our chemistry has maybe let us down more than our skill level or other stuff."
Aside from playing for each other, the Spartans are playing for the league. The last MIL team to make the finals was Hāna in 2006.
"It's been a couple years since the MIL has gone all the way," Chapple said. "We're hoping to do well and have a good showing for Maui."