Sunday, March 27, 2005



Queens of the Diamond

Marina Gusman-Brown surprised
and honored to learn she is the
Position Player of the Year

Frankly, she's the last person on Earth to realize just how good she is.

That's why Marina Gusman-Brown was stunned to learn that she is the Star-Bulletin's Position Player of the Year.

The junior hit .545 as Pearl City won the Oahu Interscholastic Association West Division. At the state tournament, she hit .667 (10-for-15) and was 5-for-5 in stolen-base attempts. Playing third base and pitching, she had few peers.

Pretty good for a kid who originally wanted to become a swimmer.

"I started playing softball when I was 10. It was kind of frustrating because my dad pushed me, but then I wanted to become better than he expected," she said.

Gusman-Brown's production and versatility helped the Chargers finish third at the state tournament. "We were fifth my sophomore year and third this year," she said. "So I think maybe next year ..."

It could be Pearl City's turn in 2006, thanks to a talented group of returnees.

"It's a good possibility. I'm hoping for it," she said.

Earning the Position POY honor, though, was another eye-opener in recent weeks.

"It's so surprising. Coach (Keoke Behic) called and told me. I said, 'No, I didn't.' He said, 'Yeah, you did.' I started crying," Gusman-Brown said. "There's so many good players out there."

Gusman-Brown's performance isn't going unnoticed at higher levels. "For a long time, I never thought I was college caliber," she said.

Both Hawaii Pacific and UH-Hilo have expressed interest in Gusman-Brown as a possible two-sport student-athlete.

Hawaii has also shown interest. Rainbow Wahine coach Bob Coolen called the day after coaches are legally allowed to make contact with high school players. That's when reality set in.

"Now the pressure's on," said Gusman-Brown, who will have to cover some ground to become a Division I qualifier. She is going to take an SAT prep class and push her grade-point average as high as possible.

Beyond softball, volleyball and track -- she won five events at the OIA championships last year -- Gusman-Brown wants to study dental hygiene.

"I thought about UNLV, but I studied it, and it's a high-crime area," she said. "So my counselor gave me a list of schools with dental hygiene programs."

It's all happening at whirlwind speed for Gusman-Brown, who didn't begin to grasp her potential until two years ago.

"I was 14, playing ASA with girls who were 18. I thought, 'Wow. I can hang with the big girls.' "

She can certainly hang.

As a pitcher, she threw a two-hitter to beat eventual state champion Mililani during the OIA West season. Losing to Kapolei at the state tourney, however, left an imprint that won't be forgotten.

"I'd rather get a state title than any award," she said.


Pitcher of the Year Courtney Kessell
has her sights on playing softball
for Hawaii Pacific next season

She's come a long way since those teary-eyed days in fourth grade.

Courtney Kessell, the Star-Bulletin's 2005 Pitcher of the Year, almost hated softball at one point of her youth.

"I liked it at the beginning, when I was 8. The coaches pitched to us. But when we actually pitched to each other, I sucked really bad. I cried every game," she said.

Kessell turned the frustration into a remarkable set of skills. This season, she won 16 games and struck out 177 batters for Kailua. She was the senior leader and cornerstone of a team stacked with underclassmen.

She edged Punahou's Sarah Weisskopf in the selections. Weisskopf was extremely impressive as Punahou won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title. The senior went 12-0 with a 0.37 ERA in league play. Coincidentally, her only loss came in the state tournament, a 2-1 loss to Kessell's team.

The honor humbled Kessell, who succeeded despite back, quadriceps and ankle injuries throughout the season.

"It's a good accomplishment. I've dedicated myself to work hard, especially this year, for college," said Kessell, who was named the Star-Bulletin's 2003 Player of the Year as a sophomore.

She finished her career with a 54-8 record and 574 strikeouts.

"Rusty Ann (Borges) is a great shortstop, and Alisha Vegas is a great second baseman. I can't get every out myself. My defense came through," Kessell said.

Kessell has committed to play for Hawaii Pacific next season, though letters from numerous Division I universities continue to arrive.

"I just throw them away. I know I'm going to have a great experience at HPU. I've been to the mainland a bunch of times on softball trips and it's sickening. Nothing compares to here," she said. "Especially Waimanalo."

Those early trips, however, served as an impetus.

"When I was 12 or 13, I was on the Little League all-star team. We went to Montana and Oregon," Kessell recalled. "All of that atmosphere made me want to play more."

Kessell's progress since those early days has been remarkable. She now throws risers, drops and curveballs in addition to a fastball.

The Star-Bulletin's Position Player of the Year, Marina Gusman-Brown, was in awe of Kessell.

"Her ball just floats. We didn't know whether to move back in the box or not," she said of her Pearl City teammates.

Gusman-Brown had never gotten a hit off Kessell until the final game of the state tourney, in consolation play. By then, Kessell's arm was numb and Gusman-Brown was able to get a few hits.

It was a game, Kessell said, to simply finish out her prolific Surfrider career.

Her best memory of the season came in the win over Punahou, when Shyenne Hussey homered off Weisskopf for the win.

"I'm afraid to pitch to Shy at practice. She can hit it over the fence any time," Kessell said.

Punahou, she noted, was the toughest lineup she faced all year.

"From one to nine, they're real good. There's no easy way out," she said.


First Team

Position Player School Class
P Courtney Kessell Kailua Sr.
P/U Sarah Weisskopf Punahou Sr.
C Kaha Weir Punahou Sr.
1B Dana Lee Mililani Jr.
2B Casey Sugihara Mililani Jr.
3B Gail Matsushima Punahou Sr.
SS Kimberly Goo Mililani Jr.
OF Ciera Senas Mililani Sr.
OF Kaili Smith Kapolei Fr.
OF Erica Miyabara Punahou Sr.
DP Austi Paris Kapolei Sr.
U Marina Gusman-Brown Pearl City Jr.

Position Player of the Year
Marina Gusman-Brown, Pearl City
Pitcher of the Year
Courtney Kessell, Kailua
Coach of the Year
Mike Okimoto, Mililani

Second Team

Pitchers: Tina Noga, Waipahu, Sr.; Noe Esperas, Kamehameha, Jr.; Makani Duhaylonsod, Mililani, Fr.
Catcher: Erin Guerrero, Kailua, Sr.
First baseman: Cristen Aona, Punahou, Jr.
Second baseman: Kanani Numata, Pearl City, Sr.; Liane Horiuchi, Kamehameha, Sr.
Third baseman: Corrie Nishikida, Pearl City, Jr.
Shortstop: Shanna-Lei Dacanay, Punahou, Sr.; Anita Manuma, Saint Francis, Jr.
Outfield: Shanna Vierra, Pearl City, Jr.; Shelby Ford, Kamehameha, Sr.; Adrienne Tanaka, Punahou, Sr.
Utility: Tajia Acierto, Kapolei, Jr.
Designated player: Krystal Plunkett, Pearl City, Sr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Sarah Robinson, Moanalua; Brittany Akana, Saint Francis; Genesis Fruean, Kaimuki; Genoa Aiko, Roosevelt; Kaliko Kepa, Kalaheo; Sherri Gebauer, Kauai; Nicole Alconcel, Baldwin; Hina Kimitete, Konawaena
Catcher: Lauae Emmsley-Chang, Kamehameha; Skye Virtudes, Mililani; Kriss Noga, Waipahu; Makana Frank, Roosevelt; Ulu Kelekoma, Kauai
Infield: Kelli Ishii, Punahou; Dara Padaguan, Kamehameha; Rusty Ann Borges, Kailua; Shyenne Hussey, Kailua; Richie Titcomb, University; Kaui Tom, Kamehameha; Malama Manuma, Kapolei; Champagne Paris, Kapolei; Kamaile Hughes, Kahuku; Kimberly Fuller, Roosevelt; Kristen Tanabe, Roosevelt; Melissa Moreno, Waimea; Lauren Fujisaki, Pearl City; Pauline Taumalolo, Kaimuki
Outfield: Sheryl Robinol, Kapolei; Elsa Apo, Mililani; Hoku Nohara, Kamehameha; Kim Nagamine, Punahou; Misty Ka'ana'ana, Kahuku; Samantha Bolosan, Mililani; Charina Summer, Kamehameha

E-mail to Sports Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com