Kylie Christiaens, above, and Kiera Lackner, not pictured, are raising funds to attend the NoKaOi Volleyball Event on the island of Oahu, Hawaii in July. Lady Panthers’ head coach Rhandi EagleSpeaker is coaching a team of players  from northcentral Montana who will be competing there.

Bump, spike, ace and Aloha! Valier High School head volleyball coach Rhanda EagleSpeaker is taking a contingency of northcentral Montana volleyball players to Oahu, Hawaii to hone and test their skills. EagleSpeaker was invited by NoKaOi Volleyball to coach in this year’s event, which is slated for July 7-14.

NoKaOi Volleyball is an organization whose sole purpose is to offer high school athletes and college coaches the opportunity to travel to some of the world’s most exciting destinations while at the same time participating in the game they love. 

EagleSpeaker said last October she was offered the opportunity to bring a team of 8-10 players to the event

 “I talked to local athletes, both in Valier and from several surrounding teams to see who was interested in going. By the end of October I had a team of 8,” said EagleSpeaker. 

Valier’s Kylie Christiaens and Kiera Lackner were the first to commit. Joining them will be Chalissa Kipp, Browning; Sienna Spotted Bear, Cut Bank; Taquoya Racine, Heart Butte; Seanna Demontiney and Lainey Gregory, Big Sandy; and Olivia King, North Star.

Each girl is currently raising money to cover the cost of the trip, which is $2,995, not including meals.

“Volleyball is one of my biggest passions and a sport that I’m willing to go to the next level for,” said Sienna. “I think this opportunity is going to build me into an even better volleyball player mentally and physically.”

She continued, “I’m hoping to learn different things from different college coaches and even different players. This experience is going to teach me many different skills that are going to be able to help me go to the next level.”

Kylie is excited for the opportunity to travel to Hawaii. “I want to go for the college scouts and to get a good chance to get looked at for volleyball since I live in a small town. There’s a lot of places to go for volleyball tourneys, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but Hawaii would be a whole other experience. I’m excited for the opportunity to get some good competitive matches played and to maybe get looked at, and of course to see the sun!”

Kiera expressed her appreciation to her coach “for getting this team together to give us the experience of our lives. This is something we will never forget.” Lackner is looking forward to improving her volleyball skills “with this great opportunity.” 

 “Opportunities like this come along once in a lifetime, said Taquoya. “I’m beyond thankful to be asked to take part in such a event.”

 Chalissa agreed, adding, “I would like to thank Coach Rhandi for giving me this opportunity to play volleyball on her team. I am very humbled to be given this chance to play in Hawaii of all places.”

“At the moment, we are doing a cash calendar fundraiser for the month of February. Each calendar is for sale for $20 each and with that you get a chance at winning money throughout the month. If your calendar number wins, it actually goes back into the drawing for more chances to win even more money,” explained EagleSpeaker. 

Calendar numbers may be purchased from any player or EagleSpeaker. “We will be doing fundraisers, both individually and as a team, every month until we leave in July,” she added.

If you would like to at buy a calendar number or help sponsor a player with a monetary donation, please call EagleSpeaker at (406) 590-0523. 

EagleSpeaker is no stranger to participating in this type of event. “The summer after my junior year of high school I was nominated and selected to go to Hawaii and play in the ‘invitation only’ TourneySport USA volleyball program and loved the experience,” shared EagleSpeaker. 

“I looked into the program and it no longer does these trips, so I started doing my own research trying to find something similar. I ended up getting an email from one of the NoKaOi directors about possibly joining them as a coach with their program.”

EagleSpeaker talked to one of the organizers and got information about their program. “I found out that this will be a big year for their program because its the first year that they will offer a boys volleyball tournament option and also it’ll be the first year that they will be having both college coaches and high school coaches working together.”

EagleSpeaker gave her Valier players the first chance to take advantage of this opportunity. Christiaens and Lackner committed to play on the team. EagleSpeaker then set out to fill the remaining positions. And it didn’t take long. By the end of October she had her team.

EagleSpeaker said the team fundraisers will help pay for the players’ meals but the players are responsible for paying the $2,995 fee. This covers covers airfare, hotels, transportation, sightseeing, a Luau with all the players in the tourney, personalized jersey, backpack and t-shirt. 

The weeklong itinerary features a fun mix of volleyball and sightseeing. “We will have two days of practice and two days of tournament play. We are guaranteed four games, but the more we win the more games we will get to play,” said EagleSpeaker, whose team is one of two from Montana who will be competing.

“There will be more than 20 college coaches from around the United States to share their knowledge and, hopefully, scout our players so they can take their skills to the next level,” concluded EagleSpeaker.

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