Filipino-American Kalei Mau has put the rest of the Philippine Superliga on notice ever since her first game for the Cocolife Asset Managers. But while her ability to pour in the points has been well established, it’s her stellar defensive play that makes her the complete package. Run through the stat sheets of all Cocolife games in the PSL All Filipino Conference 2018 and she is often in the team leaders for digs and receptions.
How does she perform well on both ends of the floor? That’s a testament on how she was brought up playing the game.
Welcome to Hawaiian volleyball
The former AVCA All-American revealed during a recent interview at the Rebisco Volleyball League 2018 National Finals that versatility is an overriding concept of Hawaiian volleyball. “I see myself so much in these girls. Their style of play is so Hawaiian,” Mau said while watching the Hawaii Under 18 team play against Cagayan de Oro National High School.
Players of Team Hawaii do have to cover multiple facets of the game given that they only have nine players. But Mau doesn’t see any concerns about the short rotation because they are trained to play more than one position. “There’s a lot of players in this team that can play other positions. Like when a setter goes front row, she’s a hitter. Sometimes, there are two setters on the floor as well. In Hawaii, basically we are all utility players,” Mau shared.
The reason behind this approach? Size, or lack thereof. “We have to learn defense, setting, and spiking as well because we don’t necessarily have size as compared to other players in the United States. Being able to do a lot of things on the court increases their chances of getting to a US NCAA Division 1 school.”
This approach is doing wonders for the team for they have yet to drop a match with one game left in pool play. The Hawaii Under 18 team have also locked a semifinal spot by defeating the University of Mindanao Tagum College squad yesterday. They will have a chance to get the top semifinal slot in Pool A when they go up against the undefeated Bacolod Tay Tung High School today.
But while the Hawaiians can play multiple positions, one trait of these girls reminds Mau of her younger self. “When I see these girls, all they want is to hit hard. If there’s one thing I can tell them, take care of their bodies because I wasn’t able to when I was younger.”
Learning from experience
Mau gives high praise for grassroots tournaments like the Rebisco Volleyball League because they help players and coaches absorb more volleyball knowledge on the fly. “It’s very important to compare where you are. It also helps because you get to play teams from other places and see different styles of the game,” she mentioned.
Experiencing a variety of volleyball approaches is something that 2015 and 2016 Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention has experienced first hand. She played professionally for Indias de Mayaguez in Puerto Rico after her stint at the University of Arizona and brought her game to the Volley-Ball Nantes club in France last year.
The new knowledge that volleyball players pick up from what they see on court can help them build their game and challenge themselves to be better. “Competitions like these show what’s possible and what needs to be worked on to get there which raises your expectations with yourself as well,” Mau said.