Farmers First Look, Part 1
With many athletes and coaches going straight from winter sport championships to spring sport practices, there is little rest for Molokai High Farmers. The athletic department takes on its largest season of the school year with seven different sports this spring: volleyball, golf, tennis, baseball, track and field, softball and this year’s newest addition of judo. In a two-part series, the Dispatch takes an early look at the first four sports that have already begun their Maui Interscholastic League (MIL) seasons.
When it comes to the defending MIL champion Farmers, Head Coach Scottie Rapanot has yet to see anything that needs significant changes.
“I’m not gonna try to improve [anything]. They’re doing so good,” he said after the Farmers wrapped up their fifth win in six preseason games. “Why fix something that’s not broken?”
Senior pitchers Hanalei Dudoit-Enos and Nohi Meyer have made strong season debuts. Dudoit-Enos pitched a perfect game against St. Anthony to open the regular season, while Meyer allowed just one run the next day. The Farmers have seven others on the pitching staff that Rapanot said “all can hold their own” as starters.
Molokai showed prolific offense in their first few outings, with 11-run and 15-run victories. Rapanot said the majority of his big bats come from upperclassmen, but underclassmen also got their chance in the preseason.
“You can tell that they can take the place of the older ones,” said Rapanot.
However, the Farmers are also effective beyond the plate, said senior third baseman Kahanu Alcon.
“Our defense is probably the strongest this year,” said Alcon. “Our hitting, we need to work on … just some minor tune-ups. Other than that we should be in top shape.”
Rapanot’s son Scottie, Jr. will also help coach this season, as will Guy Espaniola and Kenny Adachi. The goal, said Scottie, Sr., is to bring home Molokai’s first state title since 2000.
Molokai has already taken big steps toward improving on last season. After going winless last year, the Farmers opened the season against MIL powerhouses and came away with a close, five-set loss and two wins, including a four-set victory over Division I league champion King Kekaulike.
The difference that Head Coach Hale Domingo has noticed this year is a change in mentality.
“Last year if we’re down in the dumps, we’re down in dumps, but this year we’re really positive,” said Domingo. “They pick up each other really quick.”
On a team where half of the 13 players are new, keeping up morale has been key. In the first matches, when they stopped talking on the court and started doubting each other, said Domingo, that’s when they made mistakes.
“Our communication is like a powerful weapon that we gotta use against every team,” said junior setter Jon Duvauchelle, who’s played for three years. “Last year our chemistry wasn’t too good. This year … we rely on one another.”
The next toughest match will likely be against D-II regular season champion Hana, a young, hard-working team who hustles for every point, explained Duvauchelle. Only the team that wins the MIL championships will go to the state tournament in May.
Joining Domingo on the coaching staff this season are Kawehi Kaupu, Mili Rawlins and Preston Calairo.
“We have this understanding … where players can come to us and tell us what’s wrong,” said Domingo. “Our communication bridge with the players is much stronger this year.”
Girls’ and Boys’ Tennis
Three meets into the season, new stars are emerging for boys’ and girls’ tennis. Molokai’s matches against Lahainaluna on March 6-7, followed by Maui High and Maui Prep last weekend, were the first tennis competitions for some players.
“Our freshmen usually start with very little experience or prior practice, so we pretty much have to train them up,” said Head Coach Dean Chow. “We think we’re gonna be better … than anybody would expect out of our younger team.”
Freshman Romelyn Ragonton won singles matches for the girls against Lahainaluna, while freshmen doubles partners Michelle McGuire and Althea Cariaga have meshed well in victories against both the Lunas and Maui Prep.
“You need to be aware of where your partner is … and you need to talk a lot,” said McGuire of the keys to their early success. “… We’re all just learning and testing out different styles.”
After losing seven seniors, the rebuilding boys’ team looks to returning talents, including senior Luke Kikukawa, who has won doubles matches with three different partners this season, and sophomore Preston Pascua, who’s triumphed in three singles matches.
In MIL tennis, teams go three rounds with single players and two rounds with doubles partners. The Farmers’ best chances are at third singles and doubles, said Chow, as the first and second singles players often have up to 10 years of experience.
Chow said one of Molokai’s biggest advantages is having six coaches. Pono Asano, Jimmy Casino, Kaipo`i Kondo, Kanahele Montieor and Kamanu Pascua bring nearly 15 years of coaching experience between them.
“We all love the game,” said Chow. “We try to teach the kids not just tennis but life lessons too.”
Molokai golfers had to pass their first test before the season officially began.
This year, the MIL switched to a new team competition format, explained Molokai Assistant Coach Darryl Rego. Instead of facing each other one game at a time throughout the season, all MIL teams competed at once in a qualifying round. Four golfers from each school had to shoot within a target score of 105 in order to advance to team competition. Molokai golfers William Dela Cruz, Kolealono Yasso, Damien Garces and Jershon Kaalekahi qualified.
Rego and Head Coach Ted Tokuoka said the new format could prove expensive for Molokai, which has no home competitions in the new system.
“It’s a learning experience all the way,” said Rego, who flies in from Lihue to help coach. “The team did ok, considering this is something brand new.”
The team is small this year, with five golfers. Tokuoka said he wants to see golf grow as a sport for kids on Molokai, but understands it’s an expensive hobby. The Farmers bring their own equipment and use some that’s donated to the program.
Last year was the first time Molokai participated with a full team in the MIL championships, said Tokuoku. This year they hope to send a golfer to states, which Tokuoka added has never happened before.
“Last year … we had chances to get ahead but we kinda faltered a little,” he said. “…We just need them to play good and get the right attitude. Whatever they accomplish is great, if it all falls into place.”
The four MHS golfers will now make their way to the next rounds of competition on Maui next Wednesday. Individual play starts in April.