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OC volleyball staying positive
New coaches often have a lot to learn.
Such was the case for second-year Olympic College volleyball coach Kaelea Makaiwi.
“There’s too many to list,” Makaiwi said. “It’s a humongous learning curve. You name it, I’ve learned it. And I’m still learning.”
But among the lessons she learned could be the keys OC’s been looking for in turning the program back around.
After a 7-26 debut that saw OC finish sixth in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College’s North Region, Makaiwi said she knew she needed to recruit talent. But she also knew her team needed something else.
“You always look for talent, the right attitude, a team player,” she said. “We did all that, but we wanted to find that real hard worker.”
And that’s paid off big, as the Lady Rangers are off to a 2-9 start. But on a team loaded with freshmen, Makaiwi is hoping this year’s team will pave the way for OC volleyball to return to success.
“We’re still making adjustments, but the kids are really positive,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Things could have fallen apart.
As Makaiwi was getting ready for the season, she learned several players would not be available due to academic issues and injuries. That meant finding bodies fast just to get ready for the season. But rather than settle for bodies alone, Makaiwi found local contributors like Olympic High School grad Leah Brumm and King’s West alum Megan Morris.
“We’re just really excited,” Makaiwi said. “We have bodies on the floor this year. We just lost some kids with academics then it was injuries, injuries, injuries.
“Honestly it’s amazing what they’ve done.”
OC, which began its season on Sept. 2 with a narrow 3-1 loss to Highline (13-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-21), has been consistently close in nearly every match they’ve played, earning wins against Centralia and Wenatchee Valley along the way.
“Last year our kids were just giving up,” Makaiwi said of the close games. “This year, our kids just don’t quit.”
And that’s made the biggest difference.
“Now it’s just encouraging them to play at that consistent level every day,” she said.
Outside hitter and defensive specialist Abbie Marcum returns as the team’s lone sophomore. Makaiwi said Marcum’s stepped up to the higher demands of that position as well.
“She’s agreed to step up,” Makaiwi said.
Then with additions like Brumm and Morris, the team has formed solid chemistry.
“It’s really nice,” Makaiwi said. “Leah actually was one of our late-comers. So was Megan. She’s very hard working. Both those kids are. All of them are.”
Fellow Olympic grad Lindsey Webel will play a key role, as will locals Frances Kenny (Bainbridge), Lauren Dorsey (South Kitsap) and Jessica Jordan (SK). The team also has Jennifer Bedford (Harlington, Texas), Chelsea Williams (Port Angeles) and Hokunani Anakelea-Patcho (Honolulu).
“They’re never ending. They just don’t quit,” Makaiwi said. “And I’m really big on chemistry. One bad apple can ruin the whole cart.
“I think that’s what’s gonna carry us through.”
After a team discussion last week, Makaiwi said she’s certain her team will only get better.
“We might not be the most talented, but I’m impressed with the team’s consistency,” she said. “Honestly, we just had this discussion last week. We just talked it out. Really, they’re on the same page as us. It’s the little stuff.”
Like constantly talking on the court.
“Volleyball starts and ends with communication,” Makaiwi said.
She also said the team needs to overcome its own mental hurdles to compete in the North Region.
“It’s all mental,” she said. “I said, ‘If you don’t believe you can pass, then you won’t. If you don’t believe you can win, then you won’t.’”
With the pieces falling into place, Makaiwi said she hopes others will jump on the OC bandwagon.
“I’m excited to see how it plays out,” she said. “We’ve got some high goals. I hope people come out and watch us. We’re doing some good things.”
OC is at the Kelso Crossover Tournament this weekend before traveling to Bellevue on Wednesday. The team returns home Friday with a 7 p.m. match against Edmonds.