Q&A: Damien standout Shelby Capllonch
By Paul Honda
As featured in Hawaii Prep World, October 16, 2018
When Shelby Capllonch puts the force of her power into a volleyball — left side, right side or back row — there is a sound that is unlike most on the volleyball court. It has the vibe of McKenna Granato(Punahou/Hawaii) and Gabriella Matautia (Moanalua/Temple).
Damien is having its finest girls volleyball season ever, and at 13-0, Capllonch (pronounced cap-ee-on) is the key to well-oiled offensive machine. Since taking over in 2015, Coach Don Faumuina has seen Damien turn around from a one-win squad to a four-time state-tourney contender.
With the first-round title at stake, Le Jardin lost to Damien in a battle of unbeaten teams two weeks ago. LJA coach Lee Lamb knew it would be tough against the Monarchs and their big hitter.
“A few things have really stood out to me over the years, but the biggest is the competitor in her. Not the fiery, in your face, look at me type of competitor, but the kind of competitor that has a calm resolve and a no task is to small attitude,” Lamb said. “It’s never about her. It’s always about the goal. This may not be PC, but I think of Shelby as a silent assassin.
“In that regard, she kind of reminds me of Savanah Kahakai, a player I had the pleasure of coaching at club and high school. Savanah was both humble and grounded like Shelby and was that same type of player. Savanah just quietly went about her business of being one of the best kids on the court at any give time,” Lamb added. “Savanah and Shelby also have great vision and a knack for being patient and waiting for the right opportunities to score. Shelby, like Savanah, will keep the ball in play until she gets a quality opportunity and then she scores. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t take chances, but they always seem to know when to take their chances. Always helping their teams and never penalizing them for unforced errors. Shelby is an exceptional young athlete and I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to be around her and and watch her play.”
Faumuina sees similar combination of traits in Capllonch.
“She’s a fairly quiet person, more to herself. I’d say she’s even an introvert, very pleasant to everyone, always laughing. Laid back and easy-going,” Faumuina said. “I always joke with Shelby that the reason you’re so great is you take your mannerisms after your father (Eric). The aggressiveness and beast on the court, she gets that from her mom. And once the game is done, she’s back to Shelby.”
Capllonch says she was especially quiet after completing eighth grade at St. John Vianney Parish School in Enchanted Lakes.
“I was quiet up until about my sophomore year. I was shy. I only talked to two people,” she said. “At my old school, I had more friends. My sophomore year, I was like, ‘I need more friends.’ My brother (Punahou lineman Blake Feigenspan) can talk for days, just like my mom.”
It was a classic, Marvel Comics scenario of a player with great power gradually recognizing that with it comes great responsibility. The Monarchs have just three seniors now, and one is out with an injury.
“I told her, ‘Be selfish enough to to take this team as your own. Captain this team. You deserve a championship.’ When I put it in that contest, she said, ‘OK, Coach, as long as it’s us as a team.’ “
Sometimes, finding a home is the key to success. At a larger program, Capllonch may have become a leading OH. She may have been more of a role player. At Damien, it was the right place at the right time.
“From what I understand, Kim tried getting her into all the big schools,” Faumuina said. “She sent videos and no one showed interest until she played her freshman year at Damien. Then they called and Kim said, ‘No, she’s staying all the way.’ Sometimes, something like this is good. You’re a big fish in a small pond.”
The Monarchs were the underdogs. Now they’re the favorites. Faumuina and assistant Reagan Agenahave an even-keeled approach.
“He helps us relax. I don’t know how, but he does,” Capllonch said of Faumuina.
She says being on campus from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. isn’t so bad. After-school study hall in an air-conditioned classroom inside the gym helps immensely.
“We get our food from the concession (in the cafeteria), pack it and go to study hall,” Capllonch said.
Mom is never far away. Kim Buffett retired after 30 years with HPD and is now a dean at Damien. When Capllonch begins her college career, mom will be an hour away.
“She’s going to move to mainland when I start college,” Capllonch said.
For now, there’s school and volleyball. In 2015, Damien reached the state quarterfinals. In ’16 and 17, the Monarchs made it to the semifinal round. An ILH team has won the last three state crowns.
Capllonch’s grandparents came from opposite sides of the world. One left an island off the coast of Spain, Mallorca, and eventually met a young woman in Japan. As a child, Shelby Capllonch once visited that remote island in the Mediterranean Sea.
“The temperature can be 80, but the water is freezing cold,” she said.
She wants to return there again someday.
“Someone from my family saw a statue and it said ‘Capllonch’ on it. My dad said it was my great-great-great-great grandpa,” she said.
Q&A / Favorites
Athlete: I don’t have one.
Team: I don’t have one.
Food (at home): Baked breaded chicken
Food (eating out): sushi
Hobby outside of sports: I like to go to the beach. Sometimes, in my free time I paint or draw
Movie: Thor: Ragnarok
TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
Video game: Mortal Kombat X
Music artist: 21 Savage
Teacher (elementary through high school): Ms. Kristen Ponce
Class: Forensic Science
Place to relax: My bed or on the couch
Motto/scripture: The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. — Les Brown
What your mom (Kim Buffett-Feigenspan) says that you can’t forget: “Just have fun”
What your dad (Eric Capllonch) says that you can’t forget: “Good game Shelby girl”
What your coaches say that you can’t forget: mind set plus skill set equals jet set
How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
In school season, I basically live at Damien. Ill get to school around 7:45 a.m. then not leave until 7:30 p.m. I don’t really mind it because we have study hall so i can do work or just relax, plus the team being together for this long, like it kind of helps with team bonding. My off season is club season. In club season, i would have practice like 2 or 3 times a week, from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. So, when school ends, sometimes i don’t know what to do because i was so used to staying at Damien for hours. Club season gives me much more free time, so i try to hang out with friends or go cheer on another sport, like basketball or baseball. Plus, club season gives me more time to relax and rest my body.
What middle and elementary schools did you attend?
Elementary, I went to St. John Vianney and for middle, and high school i have been at Damien.
What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?
I used to play PAL volleyball in Kailua, i don’t really remember the names of the teams. I played for Manoa Beach for the past 2 years, and my year round commitments are mainly school and volleyball.
Where have you travelled for your sport(s)? I have been to California, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Iowa and Florida.
What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
I like to do art, most people would probably not believe me but I’m pretty okay at it.
What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? Where would you like to travel, what life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports?
My dream would be to become a veterinarian and one day after college to move back to Hawaii. I would like to travel to Europe. As an athlete I want to just show that just because I’m short for an outside hitter, that us Hawaii girls can do damage if they put their hearts and minds into it. For the life i would like to have away from sports is to just live and have fun, meet new people and make new friends.
What is the history and background of your name?
My mom met someone that had that name and she thought it was really pretty.