HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY
Emi Snow Willing exploded for 16 home runs for Brigham Young University last season after hitting just a measley eight the first two years.
Snow Willing is able
The 2004 Kamehameha graduate did everything to become the best
Brigham Young senior Emi Snow Willing has been a success for the Cougars softball team since the beginning.
Despite seeing limited action as a freshman, the 2004 Kamehameha graduate has produced every time she has stepped on the field.
Emi Snow Willing
» Position: OF/C
» College: BYU
» High school: Kamehameha ('04)
» Honors: 2007 Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-West region team; '07 Mountain West all-conference selection
Emi Snow Willing's career statistics:
In three years, she has never hit below .320 for the season and her on-base percentage has never been below .350.
She has been an all-conference selection and named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-West region team.
So what's the scary part about all of these accomplishments?
She did it without a true knowledge of the game.
"It really does feel a lot different for me now," Snow Willing said. "I finally understand the game. It's kind of bad it took so long, but I feel like I'm starting to understand."
She made huge strides in the power game last year, belting 16 home runs after hitting just eight in her first two seasons.
The Cougars have made it to the NCAA tournament in each of Snow Willing's previous three seasons. Last year, they advanced to the NCAA regional championship, which is the furthest they have ever advanced.
Despite losing a slew of seniors, and only returning three, the Cougars have been picked to win the conference, thanks in large part to the return of Snow Willing, their prized catcher.
"(Head coach Gordon Eakin) attributed it to the fact that we do have a lot of freshmen, but most of them are pretty much fearless," assistant coach Ianeta Lei said. "They will get the job done. It's not really a problem for us."
Lei and Snow Willing have a friendship that goes back to their days in middle school.
Lei, an '02 Iolani graduate, was teammates with Snow Willing on the Mililani Prep club team.
They remained friends throughout high school, battling against each other in the ILH. When it came time for Lei to choose college, Snow Willing's parents were instrumental in her choosing BYU.
"Her dad was the catalyst in me getting recruited by BYU," Lei said.
Both of Snow Willing's parents are products of the BYU schools. Her dad went to Provo, while her mom went to BYU-Hawaii.
When it came time for Snow Willing to choose a college, she narrowed it to BYU and New Mexico, but it wasn't a slam-dunk choice as one might expect.
"New Mexico was offering me a full scholarship, but every time I would talk about going there, my parents would say 'No, no, you're not going there.' "
When Snow Willing finally visited the Provo campus, Lei was her host. By the time she left, the choice had been made.
"I'd like to think I had a little something to do with it," Lei joked.
THEY PLAYED alongside each other for two years until Lei graduated.
This year marks Lei's first as an assistant coach, making the relationship between the two a little different.
"We can't hang out as much," Snow Willing said. "It's still a lot of fun. If she asks me to do something, I'll get it done right there. Knowing that she's a coach, I feel like I have to be a better example to my teammates."
Unlike Lei, who has always been outgoing and never at a loss for words, Snow Willing is much more conservative. As a senior, she has stepped up and taken a key role in trying to be more vocal with her teammates.
"As coaches, you just kind of sit back and watch what's going on," Lei said.
"(Snow Willing) has become such a great leader. She brings leadership skills in just the way she interacts with players. It's a conscious effort that she's made to step up and fill that role."
Snow Willing enters this season with a different perspective on life in general. Last summer, she married Cougars football player RJ Willing.
They both went to Kamehameha, but did not meet each other until college.
She concedes she's much happier, but her competitive nature on the field sometimes sticks with her off the field.
"We play games together all the time, but sometimes we get too competitive and have to stop," she said laughing.
With her academic and social life nearly perfect, it leaves no distractions as she prepares for her final year.
The Cougars begin the season Thursday against Southern Utah. They will spend the first six weeks of the season on the road and face eight Top 25 teams. Five of them are ranked in the top 10.
With such a young team, Snow Willing's presence as a senior leader is even greater as they try to survive such a brutal opening schedule.
"I want to do the things that the seniors did my freshman year," Snow Willing said. "We learn so much from each other, it doesn't matter what class you're in. We are ready to go."