When it comes to preleague scheduling, most boys volleyball teams try to play the best teams in Southern California. West Ranch took it one step further this season and played some of the best teams in Hawaii.
The Wildcats competed in the KS Cup at Kamehameha Kapalama High School in Honolulu in late February and came out with a 4-2 record in the event.
“Boys volleyball is real big in Hawaii,” said West Ranch coach Brandon Johnson. “I knew it would be a good opportunity for our boys to play some good competition. Knowing we had a good solid senior class this year, it would be a good opportunity for them. It ended up being the highlight of our season.”
The Cats played two matches per day for three days straight, including pool play. They didn’t drop a single game until the fifth match of the tournament when they lost to Punahou, 2-1.
Johnson said that Zack Drake, who was named All-Foothill League first team last season, particularly looked good in the tournament, handling opposing players who were committed to schools like USC and Hawaii.
Drake was one of nine returning seniors on a team that boasted experience in winning. Last year’s team reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 semifinals.
“It was a real great opportunity for my boys,” Johnson said. “We returned a fantastic group from last year from the semifinals. Such a strong senior class, strong junior class.”
Not only was the team able to experience some top-notch competition in Hawaii, it was also able to learn a little about a culture that was different from its own.
On the final day of the tournament, one of the teams from Oahu hosted a massive meal for the guest teams.
“The whole boys team ended up signing a song for it,” Johnson said. “It’s a real cultural thing for them to sing for guests. We would not be seeing anything like that if we were here. It’s definitely different things for my boys to experience.”
The Wildcats also snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, a nature preserve. The players went into the water in pairs and then toured Waikiki afterward. After matches, the Cats were able to try canoe surfing and spend some time out on the water.
“Real, real great opportunity for my boys to build relationships with each other and spend time together. Out of the 14 boys on the team, we had maybe nine sets of parents there. A couple people had siblings that came and made a good trip out of it. It was a real great time, weather was fantastic while we were there.”
When West Ranch returned to California, they had a better understanding of what they were capable of. They had built a solid foundation in terms of both skill and chemistry and were reading to make another run at the Foothill League title.
Although the William S. Hart Union High School District canceled all sports events until April 30, the Wildcats still saw the Hawaii tournament as the highlight of the season and Johnson hopes to bring future teams back to the event.
“We hope that this is something we can do moving forward and even in that, we built some relationships with the teams there, we were talking about some tournaments in California that they might play in. We might see some teams in California and if the opportunity arises, if it’s there, we’d love to go back and get that experience.”