Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, October 14, 1996

Nash stepped bravely into
her new role

TONIGHT'S Midnight Ohana will be missing one of its siblings. For the second year in a row, Erika Nash will not be at the Special Events Arena when the curtain goes up on the University of Hawaii men's basketball season.

Nash, the daughter of Rainbow associate head coach Bob Nash, has her hands full - literally - in Peoria, Ill. She is the starting setter for Bradley University, a job that surprises the 1995 University Lab School graduate.

Her nickname while playing outside hitter for the Junior Rainbows was "Stone Hands." But when Bradley coach Kalani Mahi asked her to consider setting for the Lady Braves, Nash didn't know how to say no.

"I thought he was joking when he first asked me," said Nash, a sophomore. "He said he was serious, that I could handle it."

The clincher came when she asked what would get her the most playing time. "Setting," was the answer Mahi served back.

"I looked at Erika and thought she had the background, the experience, the work ethic and the mental capabilities to be a setter," said Mahi, a 1981 Kamehameha Schools graduate and setter for both the Warriors and Graceland College in Iowa. "In my five years (at Bradley), we've never managed to finish better than a tie for fourth in the conference.

"Our highest priority was looking for a long-time process rather than a short-term fix. We had three scholarships to give for this season. We decided to go for size and athleticism, which meant we had to train someone within the team to be a setter. The natural choice was Erika."

The Nash family had thought about a summer vacation in France. When that didn't work out, Erika ended up spending her summer working on her setting with Iolani School's Alan Kang.

"She's a good athlete and she was motivated," Kang said. "She knew that if she could learn to set, that she would be playing more. My personal view is that if any woman has the physical ability to play Division I volleyball, I tell them to learn to set. Teams are always needing for setters.

"For Erika, it was just a matter of refining her technique. She has the intelligence, the courage and the athletic ability to be a setter. She just needed the experience."

Nash's summer school course in Volleyball 101 paid off. Returning to Bradley in August, right about the time she watched the Wahine win the State Farm NACWAA Classic in nearby Normal, Ill., Nash beat out senior returnee Trish Jording for the starting spot.

The Lady Braves have struggled to a 3-17 record, but they have won two of their last four matches and are 3-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

"It's been a rough year so far," Nash said.

The highlight of Nash's season was when her dad caught up with the team for two matches last month while on a recruiting trip. It was the first time Bob Nash had seen his daughter compete collegiately.

"It was a real treat for me as a parent to see her developing into a young woman and handling things fairly well," Bob Nash said. "Nothing surprises me about her. She's played enough volleyball so I felt she could handle being a setter. It was just a matter of how fast the transition would be from swing hitter to setter.

"I miss her. If she had been a Rainbow, I would have been happier, but she made her choice."

Erika Nash could be a two-sport athlete for the Braves if she chose, having also been pursued by the basketball coach. But that would mean that she wouldn't make it home for Christmas.

"I'd be disowned if I didn't come home," Nash said. "And I can't miss the Rainbow Classic."

The engineering major's dream job would be designing shoes for Nike. She has a cross-trainer (Air Nash?) on her drawing board.

You figure Nash already toes the company line: Just Do It!

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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