By Ryan Menzie
Signal Staff Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats were one of eight schools invited to the Ann Kang Invitational Volleyball Tournament, which invites some of the top varsity girls’ teams in the country and is one of the largest volleyball tournaments in the state of Hawaii.
Kang was a former Iolani High School girls’ volleyball coach who led the school to their first state title in 2001, and later died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. The tournament was named after her for the huge impact she had on the volleyball community.
“We’re going five days a week, two hours at a time and getting ready for this high-level tournament,” said Wildcats head coach Jamey Ker when asked about preparation before the tournament. “There are a ton of good teams from California going to this tournament. The team hasn’t been away from games for too long so it’s a good way to build our chemistry moving forward.”
The Wildcats ended up going 2-4 in the tournament, which ran Aug. 12 to 14, but with all things considered Ker thinks the tournament went pretty well. The Wildcats competed against some of the best teams in Hawaii as well as Mira Costa High School from Manhattan Beach and Village Christian High School from Sun Valley. The girls were able to build chemistry while Ker was able to come up with rotations and plays that can be utilized during the regular season.
Ker knew the best teams in Hawaii were no joke, and even said the private schools from Oahu were as good as any team he has ever seen.
“We had our work cut out for us,” said Ker in an interview after the tournament. “Giving us a tough preseason schedule is the best thing for us. To create a difficult preseason for us to be tested mentally and prepare as much as we can for the league competition. The main point was to figure things out for ourselves.”
Senior captain and libero Kaitlyn Jizmejin appreciates the team bonding experience from being able to travel to Hawaii together and enjoy team activities. Jizmejin has been on the team all four years of high school and wants to end her final year on the strongest note possible.
“For me personally, this tournament taught me that I can’t ever give up on myself,” said Jizmejin. “You have to keep trying. We have to stay positive as a team and keep our energy high. When we do that, we all play better.”
Senior captain and outside hitter Kiley Gustin thought the tournament was amazing and appreciated playing together as a team for the first time in such a competitive environment. Gustin has been on the team for four years and looks to go into every game and practice this season with 100% focus.
“We just have to continue giving effort all the time,” said Gustin. “I think it’s hard when you’re playing really good teams to keep trying and persevere. We handled some pretty good teams in the tournament. The effort had the most to do with that and I’m looking forward to the season with that takeaway.”