GETTING TO KNOW …
Coach Mitch Matsumoto had an inkling his Kaiser Cougars would be a highly competitive softball team this year, and that thought grew stronger when four of his players combined to hit nine home runs in the preseason.
All four are sisters from the Aholelei family of Palolo, and all are starters — senior first baseman Christiana, freshman shortstop Ivane and twins Primose, who is a junior pitcher, and Precious, a junior catcher. That’s a lot of Aholeleis on the softball diamond, but they are not the only ones. Two years ago, Lesieli Aholelei, an older sister now pitching at Edmonds Community College in Seattle, led the Cougars to the state tournament as a senior. Another older half-sister, Sisilia Tuipulotu, is a Kalani assistant coach.
“We thought we were going to have four of them when (Lesieli) was a senior,” Matsumoto said during Thursday’s practice. “But Christiana didn’t play that year. Having four from one family is rare — and three of them could play any position and be a starter. The other one, Ivane, can play anywhere but pitcher.”
Ivane — who is the most outgoing of the bunch, according to the other three — tried her hand inside the pitcher’s circle during the recently completed JV season, but didn’t feel comfortable there.
On occasion, Matsumoto uses Christiana as a pitcher, and Precious jokes that she can pitch better than her twin, Primrose, even though she admits it isn’t true. That is part of a friendly rivalry that began at birth. Precious was designated by doctors as ‘Baby A’ because it looked as if she would be the first to be born, but ‘Baby B’ Primrose didn’t want any part of being in second place and wound up winning that race.
“I challenged her in my mom’s stomach,” Primrose said.
Added Precious: “Primrose is really strong and everybody looks up to her. She’ll tell me what to do and I’ll actually listen to her. She gets everybody to listen to her.”
Primrose recently went through a grip change, which has added life and speed to her fastball, and has developed a nice The Aholelei sisters have contributed to Kaiser’s 3-0 start two years after another sister, Lesieli, helped the Cougars reach the state tournament. CHRISTIANA AHOLELEI
>> Senior first baseman >> Talents/hobbies: art
>> Other interests: architecture, math
>> Junior pitcher >> Talents/hobbies: singing >> Other interests: nursing, math
>> Junior catcher
>> Talents/hobbies: guitar, bass guitar, ukulele
>> Other interests: math, sports/exercise science class
>> Freshman shortstop
>> Talents, hobbies: singing, dancing
>> Other interests: social studies, history, Hawaiian
history change-up that reminds Matsumoto of Lesieli’s.
Christiana, the oldest, is especially grateful to have her sisters playing with her during her senior season.
“I’m supposed to be a good example, but for some reason they set the example for me,” she said. “I learn more from them in different ways, not only in softball but at home. I’ve learned to appreciate whatever is given to you. They’re my sisters and without them I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”
As a sophomore, Christiana had a baby of her own — Sione Paea Aholelei, a boy who will turn 2 in May.
“I’m a proud mom,” she said. “I have plenty of sisters and aunties to help support him. They help changing diapers, sleeping with him, showering him. I’ve had a lot of help.”
Said Precious: “He’s very adorable and he listens. And he likes to throw the softball around.”
Ivane, who also plays basketball for Kaiser, had a great outing in her first regular-season start. In a televised 8-6 victory over Moanalua, she hit a homer in her first at-bat.
“It was a day before my auntie Pesi passed away,” Ivane said. “It was very emotional. We wrote her name with a marker on the tape on our wrists. The moment I came to bat, I knew I wanted to do it for her. I made contact, threw my hips into it and the ball was gone, almost over the second fence (at McKinley). I went to first, pointing up to God and I was like, ‘This is for you.’ I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Kaiser is off to a 3-0 start in the OIA, and Matsumoto admits that he “might be” sandbagging when he says that the Cougars are a middle-of-the-pack East team.
It’s hard to concede to being middle of the pack with a roster that includes those four talented Aholelei girls of Tongan descent, all of whom can hit for power and average.
“Last year, we barely had enough girls because of injuries and grade problems,” the coach said. “We limped through the season. This year, we have a good chance of making it back to the state tournament.”
As a ninth-grader, Ivane has had plenty of time to observe before making the varsity, and she sees that the whole team’s attitude will go a long way.
“As a freshman, I shouldn’t be saying it as much, but sometimes we’ll get down,” she said. “We try to say, ‘Let’s not give up now.’ That’s the most important thing when things aren’t going your way — you can’t just give up.”