Friday, December 6, 2002

Moeai gives BYUH
another weapon as
Seasiders sweep

By Jerry Campany

Things are supposed to get harder the deeper you go into a national tournament, but the Seasiders are making things look easy.

The Brigham Young-Hawaii volleyball team swept New Haven in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II tournament at Canyon, Texas, yesterday.

The Seasiders won the first 12 points of the first game and beat the Chargers 30-10, 30-15, 30-18 to advance to the semifinals against Tampa at 1 p.m. today Hawaii time. A win there would put them a game away from their second NCAA national championship and their 10th overall.

"It was relatively easy," BYUH coach Wilfred Navalta said. "We weren't challenged today, but Tampa is an entirely different team and it will take all of the luck and skill we have to get past them."

Although they have cruised through the national tournament -- losing only a single game -- on the strength of their outside hitters, the Seasiders turned to their middle blocker to stop New Haven's 29-match winning streak.

The Seasiders, who trailed only once in the match -- 5-3 in Game 2 -- improved to 25-2 with their last loss coming Oct. 22 at Western New Mexico.

Junior Ashley Moeai, who came into the game third on the team behind Yu Chuan Weng and Chun Yi Lin in kills and attempts, was nearly perfect in the match. She set career highs in kills and hitting percentage.

"I felt like things were opening up a lot," Moeai said. "There was always somebody there, but it was so visible around the block, it was like I could see through the block."

Moeai took 28 swings in the match and committed only two errors, tying the team high with 21 kills in a three-game match this year. Her hitting percentage of .679 was the Seasiders' third highest this year.

She also contributed five blocks and two service aces to the domination. The Chargers did not score a single ace in the match.

Moeai was a force on defense as well, helping the Seasiders hold the Chargers to a minus-.010 hitting percentage while teeing off for a .385 mark. Moeai was waiting for the day to break out, but is just as ready to return to the shadows.

"I love the position I'm in," Moeai said. "There is always going to be someone on the team getting the glory before me. Before I was probably playing a more crucial role and we were good, but not this good."

National freshman of the year Weng knocked down 12 kills, while fellow freshman All-American Lin contributed seven. Kaala Lo enjoyed the freedom of setting for an obviously superior squad by dishing out 38 assists and matching Leiau Meatoga with 10 digs.

Lo and the secondary setters started going to Moeai and New Haven never gave her a reason to look anywhere else.

"Kaala did a good job of reading the defense," Moeai said. "Even on the scramble plays the backup setters got the ball to me."

Although she had the game of her life in the quarterfinals, Moeai may make her biggest impact in the semifinals.

Tampa coach Chris Catanach, who began coaching the same year as Navalta (1985) and has forged a friendly rivalry with the man who beat him in the 1998 title game, was in attendance and certainly saw everything Moeai was capable of. The Seasiders believe that may give him an edge today when the Spartans pay particular attention to their third option.

"We were watching him (Catanach), too," Moeai said. "We were cheering for them, we wanted to play them because we felt like they were a team we can control. They are going to be very tough, but we have seen them at their peak."

Tampa 3, Northern Colorado 1: The Spartans spanked the No. 2 Bears 30-28, 24-30, 30-24, 32-30 to earn the chance at the Seasiders.

Tiffany Boatwright and Ericka Womack each had 17 kills for the Spartans, who upset the No. 2 team in the AVCA poll despite national player of the year Erin Deffenbaugh's 28 kills and 18 digs.

AVCA All-American Ania Ruiz had 16 kills and 17 digs for the Spartans (28-6).

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