Area players thrive in Vegas desert


POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009

LAS VEGAS » When Malo Taumua feels a yearning for the islands, he knows he can find a taste of home nearby.

At the corner of Maryland and Flamingo, to be exact.

“;L&L right down the street,”; Taumua said. “;You go there when you feel homesick and you won't feel homesick after that.”;

The prevalence of Hawaii expatriates and reminders of home spread throughout Las Vegas helped the UNLV defensive lineman adapt to life in the desert since arriving in 2006.

He's looking forward to seeing a few more familiar faces on Saturday when the Rebels host Hawaii at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Taumua first met UH linebacker R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane playing Pop Warner ball in Aiea and got to know Warriors defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea in seventh grade. The trio anchored the Aiea defense during its march to the Division II state championship in their junior years and they'll be reunited—though on opposite sidelines—this weekend.

“;It means a lot because the first few times we played them, they beat us bad,”; Taumua said, referring to UH's 42-13 win in 2006 and 49-14 victory in 2007.

Taumua grew up across the street from Aloha Stadium in Halawa, selling newspapers before UH games as a kid, and is among five Hawaii products on the UNLV roster. Three are expected to start on Saturday.

Taumua shifted from tackle to defensive end in fall camp. Redshirt freshman Sean Tesoro (Baldwin '08) is the Rebels' starting left guard and senior Kamu Kapanui (Kamehameha '05) is entrenched at long snapper.

Ramsey Feagai (Radford '06) is a backup at defensive tackle on the two-deep. Offensive lineman David Ka'anana (Kamehameha '08) grayshirted last year and joined the Rebels in the spring.

UNLV coach Mike Sanford said Kapanui will be the special teams captain on Saturday for a UNLV team already at a pivotal point as the Rebels (1-1) seek their first winning season since 2000.

“;This is a game you think about when we're training in the summer. We've been thinking about this since '07,”; Kapanui said.

“;We've been through some ups and downs in my years here, so this game is huge for us.”;

Taumua was an honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference pick last season, and blocked a field goal in overtime that sealed UNLV's upset of Arizona State.

The coaches moved Taumua from the interior of the defensive line to end this summer and he enters the game against UH with a sack and the Rebels' lone interception this season.

“;It was slow at first and after camp got done and we started practicing for (the season opener against) Sacramento State it just clicked right there,”; Taumua said. “;I've got it down pretty much. There's more space, you're out in the open.”;

“;He has a great motor and a lot of energy,”; Sanford said of the 6-foot-1, 270-pound junior.

Tesoro made his college debut against Sacramento State on Sept. 5, after being groomed for playing time as a true freshman. He was part of the travel roster and prepared for games but didn't play, allowing him to redshirt. Strong performances last spring and again in fall camp earned him a spot with the starting group.

“;I learned a lot last year, traveling to games and it helped in the transition,”; Tesoro said. “;I was kind of nervous, but it was easier than I thought it would be.”;

The Rebels' Hawaii products said they were looking to experience a new setting when they signed with UNLV, but still find comfort in the signs of home. And although they enjoy indulging in a plate lunch every so often, they keep their visits within moderation.

“;I don't want to go there for lunch during school,”; said Taumua, a devotee of chicken katsu curry, “;because I have a 1 o'clock class and I might fall asleep.”;



No. 18 Utah at Oregon

Utah defensive standouts Nai Fotu (Kahuku '07) and Kepa Gaison (Kamehameha '05) will try to slow down Oregon's spread offense, lead by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (Saint Louis '06). Masoli helped the Ducks bounce back from a disappointing season-opening loss to Boise State with a 38-36 victory over Purdue last week.

The Utes bring the nation's longest winning streak (16 games) to Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks are 19-4 in their last 23 games. Gaison had two tackles and a quarterback hurry and Fotu had one tackle-for-loss as Utah defeated San Jose State 24-14 last weekend. In his weekly news conference, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said of Masoli, “;Their strength on offense is the quarterback. He is a capable runner and loves to run the football. He is a built like a running back.”;



» UNLV senior Malo Taumua (Aiea '05) had four tackles and a sack in a 23-21 loss to Oregon State. Beavers junior Suaesi Tuimaunei (Kahuku '06) had four tackles, while linebacker David Paaluhi III (Waianae '07) had three tackles and Brandon Hardin (Kamehameha '07) finished with one.
» Washington defensive end Daniel Teo-Nesheim (Hawaii Prep '05) had four tackles and a sack as the Huskies broke a 15-game losing streak with a 42-23 win over Idaho. Sophomore Robert Siavii (Leilehua '08) made six tackles for the Vandals.
» Stanford defensive tackle Matt Masifilo (Campbell '07) had four tackles in a 24-17 loss at Wake Forest.
» Oregon junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (Saint Louis '06) finished 11-for-21 for 163 yards and rushed for 84 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in a 38-36 win over Purdue.
» California senior Tyson Alualu (Saint Louis '05) had four tackles and redshirt freshman Aaron Tipoti (Word of Life '08) added three tackles for the Golden Bears in a 59-7 win over Eastern Washington. Sophomore Solomona Aigamaua (Saint Louis '07) also had a tackle for Cal.
» Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins (Saint Louis '06) completed 29 of 47 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-23 loss at Colorado State. Tight end Cody Nakamura (Baldwin '05) caught both touchdown passes for the Wildcats and finished with 10 receptions for 75 yards.
» Santa Rosa (Calif.) J.C. linebacker Wesley Ulloa (Punahou '07) had six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in a 42-0 victory over College of the Redwoods.
» Linfield (Ore.) defensive end Sparky Gonzalez (Saint Louis '08) had eight tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in a 37-22 victory over Hardin-Simmons. Linebacker Kalae Parrish (Kapolei '08) and defensive back Nate Dixon (Kapolei '08) added seven tackles apiece and freshman Kaohu McCabe (Kamehameha '09) had six stops. Freshman kicker Maika Kunioka (Leilehua '09) booted a 32-yard field goal and was 4-for-5 on extra-point tries.

» Loyola Marymount sophomore Erin Rementer (Punahou '08) scored both goals for the Lions in a 3-2 loss to Oregon on Friday.
» Denver senior Lizzy Carlson (Punahou '06) had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over Texas Christian on Sunday.

» Loyola Marymount sophomore Diana Hiromoto (Punahou '08) had 14 digs in a four-set win over Boise State on Saturday.
» Puget Sound senior libero Leigh Sumida ('Iolani '06) made the all-tournament team at the Colorado College Invitational. Sumida had 50 digs and an ace in the tournament, leading the Loggers to a 3-1 record.
» Washington senior libero Tamari Miyashiro (Kalani '05) had 19 digs and two aces in a win over Minnesota on Friday. She finished with 20 digs and four assists the next day in a win over Florida as Washington won the Tampa Twice Tournament. Both wins were against top-10 ranked teams.
» Oregon State senior Camilla Ah-Hoy had 41 assists and 14 digs in a victory over UC Santa Barbara on Friday and 40 assists and nine digs in a win over UNLV on Saturday.
» Central Washington junior Brandie Vea (Kalani '07) had 31 digs in a five-set loss to West Texas A&M on Friday.
» Nevada junior Kylie Harrington (St. Francis '07) had a team-high 17 kills and 14 digs in a five-set victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday. Sophomore Tatiana Santiago (Kamehameha '08) added 35 assists and eight digs and freshman Elissa Ji (Maryknoll '09) had eight kills and three digs. Freshman Kelly Chang (Hawaii Baptist '08) had six digs.

» Pepperdine junior Chelsea Wishard (Kauai '07) finished eighth in the women's 5K at the UC Irvine Invitational. Wishard finished with a time of 17:53.70.