HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY SAN JOSE STATE
Briana Amian, left, and Kristal Tsukano knew each other in high school, but never played together .
Amian, Tsukano assist in San Jose State’s revival
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Last night's Western Athletic Conference match between Hawaii and San Jose State was a homecoming for two local products.
Sophomore Kristal Tsukano (Kamehameha '06) and freshman Brianna Amian (Moanalua '07) closed out the Spartans' regular season with a match in their old stomping grounds.
Both were first-team all-state selection their senior seasons and have transitioned themselves nicely to collegiate volleyball in a short period of time.
Tsukano leads the team in digs while Amian has gone from a possible redshirt year to becoming a starter. Together, they have helped the Spartans turn around a season that saw them 1-6 in the WAC at one point.
They also were involved in a harrowing experience this season that saw a home match against Pacific postponed after an earthquake rocked San Jose, Calif.
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San Jose State freshman Brianna Amian never looked faster on a volleyball court.
No, she wasn't racing to the outside to put up a double block. She wasn't chasing down a loose ball in the corner or diving to make a spectacular dig.
In the middle of Game 2 in a home match against Pacific, Amian was on the bench watching teammate Niki Clement put home a kill when she felt the walls of Spartan Gym begin to shake.
Before anybody knew what was happening, Amian was already off the bench and out the door.
"I was really scared," Amian said. "I was like one of the first people to run to the door. We have it on tape."
A 5.6 magnitude earthquake rocked the San Jose area on the night before Halloween, forcing the game to be canceled. It lasted between 15 and 20 seconds.
Amian, who remembers the earthquake that hit Hawaii exactly 12 months earlier, said it was much worse. "It scared me way more," Amian said. "I was shaking. When you looked up you could see everything shaking."
Teammate Kristal Tsukano, a '06 Kamehameha graduate, was on the court for the Spartans, but had no idea what was going on.
"I didn't even notice the ground shaking," Tsukano said. "I didn't even feel it and people were running for the doors. I was like, what's going on?"
The quake is a microcosm of the Spartans' shaky season. After losing six of their first seven WAC matches, they bounced back to win six of their next eight heading into last night's regular-season finale against Hawaii.
Tsukano plays at libero and leads the team in digs, averaging more than four a game. She averaged a little more than two a game as a freshman where she played in 31 matches.
Amian has been a pleasant surprise for the Spartans. She has worked her way into the starting lineup in 14 of their first 21 matches this year and is fifth on the team in kills and third in blocks.
"I didn't think I was going to play at all this season," Amian said. "When I did, I was excited and surprised and just tried my best."
The challenge of keeping up with academics while devoting so much time to volleyball has been tough for Amian.
The difference in cultures form back home is also something that has taken some getting used to.
"One time I stuck saimin without water in the microwave and it made the whole (dormitory) floor stink really bad," Amian said. "When I told people it was saimin they had no idea what it was. When I said Top Ramen, they were like ohhhh."
Amian is one of five freshmen new to the team this year, making her transition a little easier.
On the other hand, Tsukano is the lone sophomore on the team and was the only new player to join the squad a season ago.
"I felt like I was the only Hawaii person here," Tsukano said. "Bri has it easier because she came in with people."
They knew each other in high school, but never played on the same club team. Tsukano played club volleyball for Tommy Lake, who coached Amian at Moanalua. The Menehunes won the OIA championship this year after coming in second all four years Amian played on the team.
"Four years and we never took it once," Amian said. "It's kind of upsetting."
Tsukano tries to keep in touch with her high school team, but had to rely on mom to hear the news of Kamehameha winning its third straight state championship last weekend.
Most of the seniors on the squad were Tsukano's teammates as sophomores when the Warriors began their title run.
"I'm happy for them," Tsukano said. "I'm so busy it's tough to keep up with them but I'm glad they won."
Both of them hope their high school success can translate to the collegiate level where the Spartans have turned their season around after a bad stretch in the middle.
San Jose State fell to 1-6 in the WAC after a five-game loss to Idaho. Tsukano became the second player in school history with more than 40 digs in a match with 42.
Amian added five kills and five blocks for the Spartans, who trailed 2-0 before winning the next two games.
Despite falling in five, Tsukano points to it as the turning point of the season.
"Even though we lost that game against Idaho, it was the first time our team really came together after having such a rough time," Tsukano said.
Tsukano hasn't been homesick since arriving at San Jose State, but is always looking forward to facing Hawaii in the islands.
Besides playing in front of family and friends, it's the amount of people who attend Rainbow Wahine home games that makes the experience even more thrilling.
"The atmosphere is nuts," Tsukano said. "Hawaii fans are just so much more crazy."