Planet Claire has pink air. All the trees are red. — B52s “Planet Claire”
In one small way of looking at it, Hawaiian Mission Academy’s boys volleyball victory over Island Pacific Academy on Thursday night was just another match.
But there is a larger context here and that one is spelled with a capital C. COVID-19 has upended so many people’s lives, but the fact that this match was held is a sign that there is an end to the virus in sight.
Yes, what the HMA vs. IPA match really represents is a small win over the Big C. It’s the first in-season sport to officially be played by the Interscholastic League of Honolulu in about one year.
That’s saying a lot. Sure, the league held its cross country, sporter air riflery, cheerleading and swimming championships last weekend — but those sports are not normally played in the spring.
Hawaiian Mission’s Kristoff Ramirez follows through with a kill attempt against Island Pacific’s Luke Garcia (28) with Micah Castillo getting ready for a possible return. (Photo courtesy of Ah-Hyun Jo/Hawaiian Mission Academy yearbook staff).
So, mark the date — March 18, 2021. ILH sports are finally happening in the season they were originally scheduled for. Many other of the league’s 2020-21 sports have been completely wiped out. That includes football (although there is going to be some spring football scrimmages between the schools) and basketball (although there were some winter exhibition games between the schools).
ILH tennis and golf are also expected to go on soon, but other spring sports such as baseball, softball and track and field are still waiting for the green light.
As the state’s only league (out of five) made up of private schools, the ILH has a big advantage and aren’t getting held up quite a much by government mandates. After all, the state Department of Education is directly respsonsible for the safety of its student-athletes. The other four leagues have not yet played sports in 2020-21, although some public schools’s spring teams have gotten the go-ahead to practice in preparation for a possible season March to May season.
The athletes Bedrock Sports Hawaii spoke with last night at the Hawaiian Mission gym are definitely feeling fortunate that their season is underway. For them, it was a momentous occasion, even though they had to wear masks before, during and after the match.
Juniors Roczen Simeona, Micah Castillo and Kristoff Ramirez were the only upperclassmen in the Hawaiian Mission lineup Thursday night. (Bedrock Sports Hawaii photo by Nick Abramo).
Juniors Micah Castillo, Kristoff Ramirez and Roczen Simeona were among those leading the charge in the Knights’ 25-19, 20-25, 25-16 victory Thursday in the ILH Division III matchup.
“When corona hit, I was in doubt,” said the Knights’ Ramirez, who has been playing volleyball since the seventh grade. “I didn’t know if it was going to happen. It’s a blessing to be able to play. It really means a lot that the school let it happen, the ILH let it happen. I’m really stoked for the season, man.”
Those three were the only upperclassmen playing for HMA. Coach Dean Ikene’s two seniors — Sage Akina and Hunter Valerio — are in California on a senior class excursion.
According to Hawaiian Mission athletic director Kyle Bullington, that senior trip was carefully planned to sites where social distancing is going to be fairly easy.
Added HMA’s Castillo, who is a basketball player participating in volleyball competitively for the first time: “We (had some) basketball (exhibition games), four or five, but they didn’t count. I was practicing (volleyball) for fun, and as we went deeper into it, I realized I had a passion for the game and I wanted to help the team out.”
Navigators seniors Suerth, Nate Turman, Jonathan Carbonel, Luke Garcia and were among those powering coach Austin Viloria’s squad, which dug deep to take that second set before succumbing in the third.
Island Pacific’s eight seniors are (front left to right) Duy Le, Kailer Suerth, Hugo Robinson and Jonathan Carbonel. Back row: Luke Garcia, Myles Machida, Nate Turman and Daniel Jimenez, with coach Austin Viloria. (Bedrock Sports Hawaii photo by Nick Abramo).
The doubts about the season were felt at IPA as well.
“We were crossing our fingers the entire time, hoping for the best,” said the Navigators’ Kailer Suerth, who also plays hockey at Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas. “All of us in the back of our minds we knew we were going to play, but at the forefront, not so much. When Tier 3 (a step in COVID-19 protocol toward a return to normalcy) was announced and our AD came to us, we were like, ‘Whoa, we’re going to play.’ We got it together, made a group chat and then we were practicing.”
The HMA vs. IPA girls teams played in Thursday’s late match, and that was a real gigantic step for the ILH, too. Girls volleyball is normally a fall sport that was moved to the spring.
According to Island Pacific athletic director Greg Terhune, it was quite a sight to see the Navigator girls’ emotional gathering when they returned to practice.
“They all ran to each other and hugged,” he said.
Intense action at the net during Hawaiian Mission’s three-set victory over Island Pacific on Thursday night. (Bedrock Sports Hawaii photo by Nick Abramo).
And now, the ILH volleyball season (both boys and girls) is underway. In the boys case, it represents a little bit of that normalcy: A SPRING SPORT BEING PLAYED IN THE SPRING SEASON.
“It’s good to be back after a whole year,” said Island Pacific’s Garcia, a linebacker on the Pac-Five football team who had his whole football season wiped out. “I’m glad to see everything slowly starting to get back to normal from the COVID-19. We are grateful to the people who put this season on. We were worried we might lose it. All we could do was keep pushing and hoping for the best.”