Iolani graduate Brent Asuka led national champion UC Irvine with 227 digs this season. CLICK FOR LARGE
Asuka and Spence dig championships
Living the dream hasn't gotten old for Corey Spence. The 2004 Seabury Hall graduate is now 3-for-3 when it comes to NAIA volleyball titles. His Cal Baptist team swept Park last month, 30-22, 30-23, 30-21, with Spence coming up with a match-high 11 digs in the championship match.
"Going 3-for-3 is a pretty amazing experience," said Spence, the Lancers' starting libero most of the season. "Of the three (seasons), I feel like I was able to contribute the most this year.
"Our block was so phenomenal during the (championship) tournament that I felt I didn't see that many balls. Passing-wise, I felt like I contributed a lot. It's all been pretty awesome."
And Spence was more than happy to share the ultimate experience with another Hawaii high school graduate, Brent Asuka (Iolani '05). Asuka, the starting sophomore libero for UC Irvine, played a key role in the Anteaters' NCAA title run ... a run that began back on Jan. 3 when the two top-ranked teams opened against each other.
Asuka, right, hugged teammate Brett Simpson after UC Irvine won the national volleyball championship last week. CLICK FOR LARGE
In that match, Spence was an outside hitter due to injuries on the Lancers' side of the court. UCI prevailed 30-24, 30-27, 27-30, 30-25. Spence had seven kills and seven digs; Asuka, the 2006 national newcomer of the year, had 16 digs.
"Brent was just amazing that game," Spence said. "I wasn't surprised they won (the NCAA title). They had so many weapons, were just phenomenal."
Asuka said life has been a blur since the Anteaters defeated IPFW last Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. There was a large crowd to welcome the team upon its return Sunday, the team banquet on Tuesday and a pep rally on campus Wednesday to celebrate UCI's first volleyball championship, the school's first NCAA title since men's water polo won its third in 1989.
Asuka laughed when thinking that he was a 2-year-old in 1989.
"It's a pretty big deal on campus," he said. "Everyone keeps coming up and saying congrats. There's huge posters on campus.
"It hasn't begun to sink in for me. Growing up, you always dream about winning a national championship and I'm so lucky to have won one. It's extremely cool and unbelievable."
The school year doesn't end until mid-June. Asuka and the Anteaters are scheduled to visit the White House on June 18.
He said he'll spend the summer in Hawaii, working out and getting ready for next season.
"The individual honors last season were nice," said Asuka, also the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation newcomer of the year in 2006. "This is a hundred times better. I can't explain it other than winning something like this as a team means so much more than any individual honor."
"Some teams do one thing really well and I felt that we were steady in all our skills," said UCI coach John Speraw, one of three coaches to win an NCAA men's volleyball title as a coach and a player (UCLA 1993 and '95). "Everyone on our team contributed and that includes Brent. He was very steady and such a great competitor."
Asuka finished with a team-high 227 digs.
Spence also led his team in digs with 196. He said he'll spend the summer in California, playing some beach volleyball.
There has been discussion for Cal Baptist to return to Hawaii for matches next season. The Lancers last played the Warriors in 2004.
"I'd love to come back home and play my senior year," Spence said. "Can we go 4-for-4? That would be pretty awesome."