North Texas Daily

Hawaiian volleyball player providing defense for Mean Green

Hawaiian volleyball player providing defense for Mean Green

Hawaiian volleyball player providing defense for Mean Green
September 13
16:58 2016

Hawaii is typically associated with gorgeous beaches, blue water, volcanoes and hula girls with grass skirts and coconut bras at luaus. It is a popular tourist destination, and an island oasis.

But for freshman libero LekaLeka Kiner-Falefa, Honolulu, Hawaii has always been thought of as just one simple thing — home.

“It’s a different lifestyle [in Hawaii,]” Kiner-Falefa said. “There [are] only a certain amount of people, so you really get to know everything and everyone. It’s kind of just like one big family. I know that sounds really cliche, but it really is.”

At the age of 6, Kiner-Falefa picked up volleyball and has not looked back. She later joined club volleyball, a move that helped her immensely in the college recruiting process.

North Texas head coach and Hawaiian native Andrew Palileo came across Kiner-Falefa as a result of his ties to the club volleyball community in multiple states, including Hawaii.

“Leka’s club coach and I have been pretty good friends,” Palileo said. “We started talking and he wanted me to take a look at her, so I tracked her for about two years through her seasons and she was what we needed as far as a libero. We wanted to mainly recruit in Texas, but sometimes we have to look nationally and at multiple club scenes.”

In order for Kiner-Falefa to continue her volleyball career after high school, she had to make an extreme upheaval and leave her close-knit community behind. Her decision to leave the island and move more than 3,700 miles to Denton was not an easy one.

Kiner-Falefa gives credit to both her former coach and Palileo on swaying her to attend UNT. According to her, their coaching styles are extremely similar, so the transition to the collegiate level was not as difficult.

But Kiner-Falefa not only had to leave her home to continue her volleyball career, she also had to switch positions. Since North Texas has a plethora of middle blockers and offensive players, Kiner-Falefa was forced to make the switch from outside hitter to defensive specialist.

With the 5’8” athlete coming in, both coaches were closer to having a more versatile team again.

“Leka is a big recruit for us,” associate head coach Vinh Nguyen said. “We expect a lot out of Leka playing a big impact roll; coming in and taking over the libero position for us.”

After starting the first eight games of the season, Kiner-Falefa has become more accustomed to what is expected of her as a libero and as a Mean Green teammate.

“It’s been really great [playing libero] actually since I have never played the libero position before,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Transitioning into that position has made me become a different player, vocally, physically, mentally and it’s just making me grow as a player.”

With conference play coming up in less than two weeks, Palileo and Nguyen are still examining all of their options for various lineups.

In the North Texas Invitational tournament last weekend, Kiner-Falefa did not start on day one, giving junior defensive specialist Meredith Bramer a chance to compete for the starting position moving forward. However, Palileo has insisted nothing is set in stone.

“There’s not one set lineup right now,” Palileo said, “but that’s what we’re trying to find with switching up it up still early on. We’re looking for the chemistry between the players and seeing what works.”

Featured Image: LekaLeka Kiner-Falefa, Mean Green freshman defensive specialist / libero, blocks a shot from Louisiana-Lafayette University volleyball. Kiner-Falefa was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and moved 3,700 miles away to continue her volleyball career. Hannah Breland

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Courtney Anderson

Courtney Anderson

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