C O L L E G E _ V O L L E Y B A L L

Three-peat a new high
for Seasiders

By Cindy Luis

It wasn't the best volleyball team he's had in 12 seasons, but it will go down as one of Brigham Young-Hawaii coach Wilfred Navalta's favorites.

This Seasider team gave Navalta something he hasn't had in his tenure at the Laie campus: a third consecutive NAIA title.

"I reminded the team of our history," said Navalta after BYU-Hawaii defeated host Point Loma Nazarene Saturday, 15-9, 15-9, 15-10, for the championship.

"I told them we showed too much aloha spirit. We'd win two championships, then give back one. It happened in '86-'87 and '91-'92. Now we were in the same situation after winning in '94-'95.

"Becky Laubach said, 'Coach, we'll change that tradition.' And they did. It's a great feeling that they accomplished something none of our teams have."

BYU-Hawaii was the first team to win three in a row since Hawaii-Hilo won four straight titles from 1981-1984. With the Seasiders winning their seventh championship, Hawaii teams have now won all but four of the 17 tournaments.

Laubach, a junior blocker, played a key role in beating the Lady Crusaders (25-14). In front of 1,500 at Golden Gym, Laubach had 15 kills and 10 blocks to pace the Seasider attack.

Laubach was named to the all-tournament second team. BYU-Hawaii senior captain Daniela Carneiro was named to the first team, as was freshman teammate Arlete Silva, who had 15 kills and 9 blocks against Point Loma.

Wilfred credited the pool-play loss to Peru State on Thursday as a key motivating factor. The defeat snapped BYU-Hawaii's 52-match winning streak, the first time the Seasiders dropped a match in tournament play in six title campaigns.

"No question that losing helped us," said Navalta. "It was the shock to our system that we needed. We hadn't played since Nov. 5 and, after a month layoff, it was a new season as far as trying to get back to playing smoother."

Navalta also singled out the defensive play of back-row specialist Rachel Nihipali and the passing of senior hitter Carrie Crippen.

Crippen and Carneiro will be missed, said Navalta, Crippen for her all-purpose role and Carneiro for her leadership and all-around play. Laubach will delay her senior season for a year; she is going on an 18-month mission for the Mormon church.

"I told Becky that serving a mission is more important than volleyball," said Navalta. "We totally support her decision but it's a big hole to fill.

"My feeling is we have the players right now to form the nucleus of another championship team next season. Our key recruiting need is a middle blocker and a left-side hitter. If we're lucky there, we'll be in the hunt for No. 4 in a row."

The Seasiders began the season ranked 13th but quickly moved to the top spot. Navalta said the number 13 was good luck and that it kept his team humble.

Saturday, BYU-Hawaii made good on its motto: Humble But Ready to Rumble.

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