Aiono mak­ing his mark

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

It’s al­most like Ash Aiono didn’t have a choice.

The Whitby teenager, who is in year 13 at St Pat’s Town, didn’t start play­ing vol­ley­ball un­til he was in year 11.

‘‘I was more into rugby and bas­ket­ball, but vol­ley­ball has al­ways been a part of my life,’’ he said.

That’s down to his fa­ther Epati’s heavy in­volve­ment in the sport as a New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a coach.

‘‘Ash would come on all our road trips for the Hutt Hawks,’’ Epati said. ‘‘He was a ball­boy and would gen­er­ally chase us around.

‘‘A lot of people thought he’d be into vol­ley­ball sooner, but we haven’t pushed him.’’

Aiono, who is an out­side hit­ter, was the sole Welling­ton player among the 49 selected for a na­tional un­der-18 camp in April.

He did well at the camp, and was selected as one of four non-trav­el­ling re­serves, out­side the 12 who will head to a high per­for­mance tour­na­ment in Ok­la­homa in July.

He was frus­trated at be­ing so close, but still proud of his ef­forts. Hav­ing just turned 17, Aiono will have one more crack at the un­der-18 side next year.

‘‘You never know. I still might get the chance to travel this year.

‘‘I’m just go­ing to keep work­ing hard and im­prov­ing.’’

His fo­cus for this sea­son is to per­form for the Hutt Hawks and make Welling­ton un­der-19s.

Ul­ti­mately, like his fa­ther, he wants to pull on the se­nior sin­glet for his coun­try and have the chance to play vol­ley­ball over­seas.

Epati is in the throes of rein­vig­o­rat­ing the Porirua Vol­ley­ball Club, which folded in 1997. He hopes to get ju­niors and se­niors to­gether again to tackle leagues in the Hutt Val­ley and Welling­ton.

‘‘The talent is there; it’s just a case of bring­ing it all to­gether,’’ he said.

‘‘There are good play­ers in dif­fer­ent leagues and clubs and we’d love to tempt them back and build a strong, lo­cal club.’’

He said the Welling­ton vol­ley­ball scene was im­prov­ing.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Vol­ley­ball verve: Ash Aiono cap­tained the St Pat’s Town team that won the Welling­ton se­nior boys com­pe­ti­tion this year, and is on the cusp of the un­der-18 na­tional team.

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