HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY OF PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
Lecca Roberts plans on returning to Pepperdine after graduating to go to medical school.
Waiting to exhale
Roberts, Kea hoping for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament
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Thanksgiving allows time for many college athletes to take a break from the daily sports grind to spend time with family.
It's no different for Pepperdine volleyball players Lecca Roberts (Seabury Hall '04) and Kealohilani Kea (Kamehameha '07).
Both are currently with family members in California enjoying time away from what has been a grueling season.
However, the biggest question on both of their minds is whether or not the season, and in Roberts' case, her career, is over.
Pepperdine finished the regular season 18-10 and third in the West Coast Conference, but is as "on the bubble" as you can get for the NCAA tournament, according to assistant sports information director Ronnie Zamora.
"If precedent means anything, we have a good chance, but it's so hard to tell," he wrote in an e-mail.
Roberts and Kea will meet with the team at their gym on Sunday to watch the NCAA selection show to find out if the Waves' season is not quite done yet.
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Collegiate volleyball had always been extra stressful for Pepperdine's Lecca Roberts.
The 2004 Seabury Hall graduate made an instant impact with the Waves in her first two years. She averaged 2.57 kills a game her freshman season and was an honorable-mention all-conference pick after her sophomore year.
But despite her success, volleyball wasn't as enjoyable as it always had been.
"I was really concerned about what everyone else was thinking and doing rather than just playing the game," Roberts said. "I had a real bad mental block."
It became a problem her junior year when she eventually was beaten out for the starting middle blocker position. She played in just 18 matches that year and was at a crossroads in her collegiate career.
"It taught me how to be like, 'OK, screw it, just play the game and have fun, ' " Roberts said. "For my senior year I just went out and played."
Her refocused attitude helped the 6-foot-5 senior to the best season of her career. She led the West Coast Conference with a .393 hitting percentage and was eighth in the conference in blocks.
Along with freshman Kealohilani Kea (Kamehameha '07), Roberts led the Waves to an 18-10 record and a third-place finish in the conference.
Roberts was rewarded for her efforts earlier this week by being named to the all-conference first team.
"Was I really?" Roberts said. "Wow, I didn't know that."
Roberts and Kea are both spending Thanksgiving with family in different parts of California as they wait to see if their season will continue.
Pepperdine will find out if it received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament when the brackets are released Sunday at 3 p.m. Hawaii time.
"It's going to be in the back of my mind this whole time," Kea said. "It's going to be a little bummer if we don't make it."
COURTESY OF PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
Pepperdine freshman Kealohilani Kea, a 2007 Kamehameha graduate, was listed as a setter but played this season as a defensive specialist.
On the court, Kea appeared in 50 games this year and is seventh on the team in digs. She is listed as a setter on the roster, but played the entire season as a defensive specialist.
Her trip to Oakland to be with her sister this weekend is the first time she has been able to see family since leaving the islands for school.
Like a lot of freshmen, Kea had her doubts upon arriving at Pepperdine.
"In the beginning I wanted to come home," Kea said. "Joining the Hawaii Club helped. We've been hanging out a lot."
Roberts went through the same troubles her freshman year, even admitting to "crying every night for the first month and a half."
Because of that experience, she has been instrumental in helping Kea, and all of the freshman, become comfortable at their new school.
"I'm the senior that rides in the freshy van," Roberts said. "I tend to stay with the young girls. I try to connect with them."
Roberts is one of the more exuberant personalities on the team. She isn't afraid to celebrate a big point and cheer loudly when on the sidelines.
Her enthusiasm may have cost her a chance to play one final match for the Waves if they make the tournament.
In their second-to-last match of the regular season against Santa Clara, Roberts and the Waves had a 2-1 lead entering Game 4.
As the senior hopped, (or "frolicked" according to Roberts), toward the huddle to get ready to start the game, she landed on someone's ankle and went down in pain.
She suffered a second-degree ankle sprain and was on crutches for a week. She still has her ankle in a boot and doesn't know if she'd be ready for the opening round of the tournament.
"It depends on how I feel and if I can get a range of motion back in it," she said. "It's mostly if I can be as athletic as I was. I'm not going to come back if I'm not and hurt the team."
Despite the setback, Roberts has no regrets on how her senior season has been.
"I'm proud of myself," Roberts said.
"My goal this year was to play and be a force for people to have to reckon with.
"I think I did pretty good."
Roberts has three classes left to take in the spring before graduating with a degree in public relations. She plans on returning to Pepperdine to go to medical school and also take some business classes.
"School, school, school," Roberts said. "That's what I have to look forward to."
Hopefully, for her, there's one last NCAA tournament appearance first.