NMMI Sports Press
The Bronco volleyball team got to enjoy a rare week off from action, but that didn’t stop another pair of honors from being given to the undefeated NMMI squad: defensive specialist/libero Ha’ahulakaleikaimana “Hula” Crisostomo was named Defensive Player of the Week for both the Region V and at the NJCAA DI level overall; and the team is ranked No. 5 nationally, for the second week in a row.
“Hula is very deserving of this defensive award,” said coach Shelby Forchtner. “She probably could have got it the last three weeks, just in terms of the stats she puts up on a weekly basis. It’s pretty impressive.”
Those stats include being ranked fourth nationally in digs-per-set, with six, and 11th nationally in total digs with 240 over 40 sets in 12 matches. Seventy-seven of those digs came when the Broncos last took the court, going 4-0 in the Odessa College Invitational on Sept. 6-7.
But, the Hawaiian native said, it’s not only her effort that made the award possible.
“It’s super cool that Shelby trusts me and believes in my capabilities to be the starting libero this year, even though I had really tough competition between Yumeno (Nawa) and Kiki (Kristijana Istuk),” the sophomore said. “They’re both good defensive specialists and they could easily take my spot. But I think it’s an excellent situation – all three of us can compete against each other when we’re scrimmaging. It just forces us to play at a competitive level so that we all get better each and every day.”
And the coach agrees.
“This is probably the best defensive dynamic duo I’ve coached in 16 years,” she said of Crisostomo and Nawa. “They work very well together. They’re very smooth playing next to each other. They talk a lot. They work hard to make the other one better. It’s really impressive when one of them needs to work on something, the other one stays behind and hits balls at her. They just have a mutual respect for each other, even though they’re fighting for the same position. So far it’s been very impressive to watch them play together.”
The 5-foot-1 Crisostomo said she owes her success to many people who have helped her along the way.
“I really gotta thank my teammates, my coaching staff, plus my family back home: my coaches, my friends and my teammates for making me the player I am today and getting this far,” she said.
But while individual honors are good, the Broncos have had their best team start to the season since Forchtner can remember. They’re 12-0, with most of their matches decided in three sets. They haven’t played a fifth set yet this season, and only played four sets in half of their matches.
They swept the home-town Bronco Classic; the Dalton Overstreet Invitational in Prescott, Ariz. and the Odessa College Tournament. And they didn’t play easy teams, either. Wins came over current No. 6 Snow College and No. 19 Yavapai College and previously ranked Monroe College and Arizona Western.
But Forchtner knows it’ll only get more difficult, as, after the week of rest, the Broncos head to Hutchinson, Kan., for the always-tough Blue Dragon Invitational.
“Pretty much every team we face is going to be a tough team there, so it’ll be a really good test for us after having this week off from playing matches to see if we can do the same thing now that we’ve had a little rest,” she said.
After struggling at the Kansas tourney the last few years with no rest, Forchtner tweaked the schedule a bit this year to give them the early break.
“The last few years, it’s always seemed like we’ve always really struggled at Hutch to get wins, and I think it was us starting on Aug. 1 and never having a day off,” she said.
So, after enjoying the weekend, the Broncos will get back to practice working on the things they need to improve to make them even better than they have been.
“I think we’re always trying to just figure out our weaknesses and try to make them better,” the coach said, pointing out that their aces to serving errors number really improved in their last tourney, along with a drop in receiving errors.
“Overall, I feel like we’re getting better and better and better,” Forchtner said. “Now we’ve just got to focus in on our block and coverage, and transition. There’s just a few things that we watched in game film that we’re not doing on every single ball. And I think if we could start to do it every single ball, our overall offense would get a little better. [As a team] we’re putting up solid offensive numbers; it would just be nice to have those numbers come from five or six players instead of three or four.”
And, while the competition in Kansas will let them gauge where they’re at, it’ll also be nice to give the team a chance to see where they’ll play should they return to the NJCAA National Championships, which once again will be hosted by Hutchinson.
“I think it’s going to be nice to see the competition this next weekend and see what we’re really made of. It’s always nice to go back to a place where they’re hosting nationals, and you can tell your kids, ‘Hey! This is where we want to get back to.’”