Five former prep standouts
from the islands have made
the jump from high school
to college a successful one
Most athletes making the big step from high schools to Division I college sports find the challenge daunting.
Many "red shirt" their freshman year -- they practice with their team to gain experience in the more demanding college sports, but do not go on the active rosters so they can still have four years of eligibility.
But there a few who are so advanced that they can step into the lineup at the highest levels of college athletics and succeed immediately. They are the Freshman Impact athletes.
Five such Impact Freshmen from Hawaii this fall have been women's volleyball players Sarah Mason at Oregon and Tuli Peters at Fresno State, women's soccer players Adria Campbell at Southern Methodist and Jen Loo at Idaho State and men's soccer goalkeeper Vito Higgins at Gonzaga.
They are all starting, and playing key roles, on NCAA Division I teams.
Mason, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter from St. Joseph High in Hilo, just turned 18 last month but already is one of Oregon's go-to hitters. She leads the Ducks in kills per game (3.59) and hitting percentage (.245) in Pac-10 Conference play.
She had a team-high 10 kills Friday, reaching double-digit kills for the 10th time in 11 matches, but it wasn't enough for the young Ducks to fend off Arizona State as they fell to 0-9 in conference play.
"She's great for the team and provides a fire and an energy in every match," team spokesman Allison Ross said. "She's not intimidated by anything and plays all out in every match regardless of the opponent."
Todd McKim and former Oregon coach Cathy Nelson, both of Fox Sports Net TV predicted: "She'll be a star in this league ..."
And Oregon coach Carl Ferreira, also a St. Joseph graduate, says: "It's almost scary how much better she can get ... She has a high end to her potential."
Mason told reporter Chris Hansen of The Register-Guard in Eugene: "I'm not trying to be some freshman who is taking over the team. I'm just trying to do what I can to help us be successful."
Southern Methodist has won three of the past four WAC soccer titles and is 6-0 in the WAC this season.
"For a freshman to come in and impact at our place is a major, major step," coach John Cossaboon said of Adria Campbell, "especially in the forward role, because it is the hardest position to adjust to as a freshman, in my opinion.
"We are looking for her to become a great player."
ERIC EVANS, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON|
Sara Mason, a graduate of St. Joseph High School in Hilo, leads the Oregon women's volleyball team in kills per game (3.63) and hitting percentage (.245).
Team spokesman Claire Schmitt said Campbell "all-out burns everybody running-wise and draws people off our leading scorer, Kim Harvey."
Harvey leads the WAC with seven game-winning goals and Campbell is tied for second in the WAC with six assists.
Campbell, who is from Kailua, was Hawaii's high school player of the year last season for state champion Punahou. Her club team is Leahi '84.
SMU is 12-2 overall and has won seven in a row.
Fresno State VOLLEYBALL coach Lindy Vivas sums up Tuli Peters in one sentence: "Tuli is a kid that gets it; she gets the game."
"I just have to say one or two things and she immediately makes a correction or understands what to do," Vivas says.
Peters, who was state Player of the Year for state champion Kahuku High last fall, leads the WAC in digs in conference matches with 4.88 per game.
"When you just play the game, a lot of things happen," Peters said. "When I had 30 digs against San Jose State (Oct. 4), I was just playing the game -- not looking to have so many digs."
Vivas says that what she likes best about Peters is "she has no fear. If she makes an error or gets blocked, she will come right back and get a kill."
Division I "asks for more, commitment-wise, being in school and playing volleyball," Peters said, "but I love volleyball so I love being here. I'm having a blast. It's really fun."
Sophomore La'akea Campbell of Kaneohe, an all-state star on Iolani's 2001 state title team, also plays for Fresno State.
Vivas, a 1975 Punahou grad, says, "Hawaii kids have something special. Hawaii kids are tough. I like it."
This is the seventh year in the past eight that the starting goalkeeper for Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., has been from Hawaii. But Vito Higgins is the first to earn the assignment as a true freshman.
Higgins is a graduate of Academy of the Pacific and led Pac-Five to an unprecedented second-place finish in the ILH last season.
He follows Kalaheo alums Josh Fouts, who became a sophomore after transferring in 1996, and Mike McCarthy, who became a starter as a sophomore in 2000, into the net for the Gonzaga men's soccer team.
"Vito stepped in earlier than the other two," Gonzaga coach Einar Thorarinsson said. "He is learning as he goes and improving daily. He has come up with some very big saves that have allowed us to win games."
Gonzaga is 5-3-1 when Higgins starts; 0-2 when he does not. He ranks second in the West Coast Conference with 5.1 saves per game and two shutouts are included in his 1.79 goals against average.
Freshman Daniel Scott (King Kekaulike '03) has started the last two games at defender for Gonzaga and "has done well," Thorarinsson said. Scott's older brother Josh, a Gonzaga alum, is currently in tryouts with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
Injuries to key veterans have sent Idaho State's soccer team into a tailspin of seven straight shutout defeats, but they have not curbed the Bengals' enthusiasm for 2003 Mililani High graduate Jen Loo.
"Jen Loo will take us to the next level," coach Gordon Henderson said. "You can see the technical abilities she has. She gives us a genuine left foot on the team, which is somewhat rare."
Observers in Pocatello have marveled at her speed and versatility and one newspaper report called Loo "the first of a new breed of Bengal soccer player" that can lead Idaho State toward its goal of becoming a regional power.
Like many of the Hawaii players turning heads in college soccer, Loo played for the Honolulu Bulls club team under coach Phil Neddo.
Loo is frustrated by the downturn in the win-loss column, but says "it's been a great experience and opportunity to play against such good players." Idaho State played three nationally ranked teams before starting its quest for a third straight Big Sky Conference championship.
Loo says her confidence is growing and she has outgrown any freshman insecurity. "I'm getting shots off; it's just not happening," she said.
Idaho State is confident it will happen and the Bengals will get back on track.
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