Time off has hardly hurt Tavana


POSTED: Friday, March 27, 2009

It's taken Futi Tavana three years since his first volleyball practice at Brigham Young to finally see the court.

Needless to say, he's making the most of it.

The 2005 Kauai High School graduate was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II national player of the week on Monday after leading the Cougars to back-to-back five-set victories over then-No. 5 Long Beach State last weekend.

“;Futi is very deserving of this award,”; BYU head coach Shawn Patchell said in the release. “;He continues to make improvements week to week.”;

It's been a weekly process for Tavana since returning from his LDS mission last August. After redshirting his first season, Tavana spent two years in Riverside, Calif., spreading the word of his church.

During that time, there was no jumping, no spiking and no digging. The only exercise he got was the occasional 30-minute morning jog.

“;It was pretty hard getting back into shape,”; Tavana said. “;I'm still not back to where I was.”;

It's hard to tell on the volleyball court where the 6-foot-8 freshman middle blocker has excelled for the fifth-ranked Cougars (13-8, 9-5 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) this season.

After getting off to a slow start, the Cougars have won four in a row and eight of their last 10 heading into today's match against No. 10 UCLA.

Tavana has been an integral part of the Cougars' recent success. He leads the team with 1.49 blocks per game and has 171 kills for the season.

He had his first two career double-doubles last weekend against the 49ers, posting 11 kills and 11 blocks in the first match last Friday. He followed that performance with 14 kills and 13 blocks, which tied the Cougars' all-time record for blocks in a game, earning him MPSF and national player of the week honors.

“;(The awards) are basically a compliment to our team,”; Tavana said. “;If we didn't play well, they probably wouldn't have noticed us.”;

It's been a long process for Tavana to reach this point. Before he served his mission, he redshirted the 2006 season, which wasn't easy for the three-sport star from Kauai who was used to being on the court.

“;Playing every game in high school and coming to a school and working your butt off at practice and not even getting to suit up was pretty tough,”; Tavana said.

With that in the past, Tavana is still working his way back to the point he was before he went on his mission.

In the process, he's helping the Cougars stay near the top of the MPSF standings as they hope to continue their run all the way to the NCAA championships, which will be held in Provo, Utah.

“;We've had this motto all season, to protect our house,”; Tavana said. “;We've had that theme in mind in that they're holding the national championship here and we want to be able to participate in it.”;

The Cougars are rounding into form and seem to be peaking at the right time. Outside of two losses to No. 1-ranked Cal State Northridge at the beginning of the month, the Cougars have rolled through teams, including then-No. 4 Penn State and No. 10 UC San Diego.

“;I think we're right where we want to be,”; Tavana said. “;We haven't peaked yet. We're still climbing, but we have a lot of confidence for our last few games here.”;

After this weekend's games against the Bruins, the Cougars host UC Irvine before playing at Stanford and Pepperdine to end the regular season. The MPSF tournament gets under way April 22.

“;Everything is looking good,”; Tavana said. “;We just need to keep it going and not stop working.”;