The Bruins’ volleyball team has a rising star at libero.
Hikialani Kahohelaulii has won National Defensive Player of the Week once and Conference Defensive Player of the Week three times. She also leads the nation with 6.62 digs per set — a statistic that measures the first player to contact the ball after it goes over the net.
According to Kahohelaulii, she started playing volleyball at 13. Coming out of high school, she had been offered several college scholarships, but chose SLCC because of the prominent level of volleyball and a full-ride scholarship offered by the college.
Coming into SLCC, Kahohelaulii’s game needed to improve, according to head coach Shay Goulding-Meurer.
“Last year, her serve-receive game needed some work,” Goulding-Meurer said. “She was not getting the stats necessary to be a top libero.”
A libero is a back-row defensive specialist in volleyball. Good liberos have quick reflexes to dig hard serves. Their role is to stop the opposing offense and initiate their team’s offense.
“Kahohelaulii took ownership that her passing was not where it needed to be and diligently made the effort and put in the work to become the all-around libero that she is now,” Goulding-Meurer said.
Because of her growth, Goulding-Meurer feels comfortable utilizing her libero differently than most coaches.
“Many people play their libero on the left side of the court, but I put Kahohelaulii in the middle because that is where the most balls go and so I naturally want our best digger there,” Goulding-Meurer said. “She has taken full advantage of every opportunity to dig a ball. She loves playing in that spot and has even more influence on every play.”
The work Kahohelaulii put in has made her a more confident, mature and educated player.
“I’ve learned that there’s a process in every technique I learn and to not feel discouraged if things aren’t perfect because you’ll never have a perfect game,” Kahohelaulii said.
Her growth and training at the junior college level came to a head in what Kahohelaulii described as the best college game she has played thus far against formerly No. 1-ranked Florida Southwestern earlier this year.
“It was probably our most stressful game of the season,” Kahohelaulii recalled. “Definitely one of the more insane games I’ve played.”
Throughout the course of the match, she totaled a career-high 52 digs to go along with three aces, two of which came in the fifth and final set when it mattered most.
The relationship between player and coach
Goulding-Meurer was elevated to head coach in the middle of the season last year, and Kahohelaulii admitted that it took time to get used to the change.
“It took a while, but when I fully invested in her process, my development as a player skyrocketed,” Kahohelauli said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a coach push me more.”
Under Meurer-Goulding’s direction, Kahohelaulii is marking her personal best passing and serving season and, by every metric, one of the ten best defenders in JUCO. But more than that, Meurer-Goulding has helped Kahohelaulii plan for the future by guiding her through the recruiting process for after SLCC, according to Kahohelaulii, who noted because of her coach’s help, is getting a lot of interest from four-year schools.
“Shay has been by far the most influential coach I’ve ever had,” Kahohelaulii said. “She’s a great coach and a better person. She’s funny, intense and one of the most caring coaches.”
“I am a huge fan of Kia on and off the court,” Goulding-Meurer said. “I truly am so proud of the person and athlete she is becoming.”