Tuyay has thrived
through ‘quarterback’

The senior setter handled his
benching with a good attitude,
and has returned to a starting role

The setter is a quarterback, volleyball style.

And much like its football counterpart, those who hold the position take most of the heat and all of the blame if their passes aren't right on target.

Kimo Tuyay is perfectly content with that. The senior setter for the Hawaii volleyball team begins his final regular-season homestand tonight with the same attitude: stay in control and make your teammates look good.

"I like having everyone else have the glory," said Tuyay, scheduled to play in his 99th match for the Warriors against UC Irvine. "I don't need the big kills. I like to control the pace of our team.

"As a setter, you have a lot of responsibility and you have to be responsible. You have to know what all the positions have to do. I like the control. I know if we lose, I can blame myself. If we win, it's because the other guys around me did well."

Tuyay has had a lot to do with Hawaii's success the past four years, beginning in 2001 when he was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Co-Freshman of the Year. He led the Warriors to the 2002 NCAA title against Pepperdine, two days after getting yanked in Game 3 of the semifinal vs. Penn State.

"That's Kimo," said Hawaii coach Mike Wilton. "Here's a guy who's able to put getting pulled in the semifinal behind him and come back the way he did in the national final. He's always been good at dealing with all that goes with being a setter.

"He is the consummate team player, the ideal poster child for the volleyball program. He is genuinely happy for the success of others, even if they play the same position. He has the same selflessness and team spirit whether he's playing or sitting. His support never wavers. And that is very rare."

Tuyay suffered through injuries during fall camp and the early part of this season. He was replaced in the starting lineup by highly touted freshman Brian Beckwith for the first 18 matches, but Tuyay has started the past six.

"Until he got hurt, he was the guy," Wilton said of Tuyay. "And he's back now."

The 6-foot-2 Tuyay started his volleyball career as a middle blocker at the club level in San Diego, but "I knew if I wanted to play in college, I would have to take another position," he said. "So I started setting."

It was the position his older sister Pualani played in high school, as well as at Rutgers, where she was an all-league player. Pualani Tuyay moved to Hawaii late last year, in part to watch her brother's final season. She had tired of staying up until 3 a.m. to listen to his matches on the Internet.

"I love it that we play the same position," she said. "I know exactly what he goes through. I love watching him play. I could watch him play all day. I learned a lot from him.

"I've always been impressed with his composure and his leadership. You can tell that the team is comfortable with him. He is calm and intense, doesn't get frazzled. That he's successful doesn't surprise me at all."

Kimo Tuyay has a quiet fire, according to his teammates. His leadership has never been in doubt.

"He's an amazing player," said sophomore Matt Bender. "The people in Hawaii know it, volleyball fans across the nation know it. It's been great to see him back out there and a real pleasure to play with him. He makes me look good every night.

"His placements are perfect nearly all the time but the biggest thing about him is that he's a leader. We're out there going nuts and Kimo, while being hyped up and having fun, is always on his. He tells us to remember the little things, remember to get the tips, be in the right spots. The sign of a great leader is being able to take a step back and look at how you're playing while it's happening."

Selecting Hawaii for a college was a comfortable choice for the Francis Parker High School graduate and San Diego Section Player of the Year.

Tuyay visited the islands several times while growing up. His father, Jim, attended UH Law School after being stationed here while in the Navy.

Although Jim and Marilyn Tuyay are both 100 percent Filipino, their love for Hawaii translated into both of their children having Hawaiian names.

When it came time for college, Tuyay was being recruited by the best: UCLA, BYU, Pepperdine, Long Beach State and Hawaii. Jim Tuyay suggested that his son listen to UH's offer.

Four years later, Kimo Tuyay said he has no regrets.

"I really enjoy our crowds," he said. "It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here. The reason you want to play volleyball is to have fun and play in front of people like we do. My parents still giggle when we're out and people come up to say 'Good game.' Nothing like this would happen in San Diego.

"I've loved every single minute here. I wanted to go to college and play volleyball. I was able to win a national championship and a lot of players can't say that. I made the right decision."

Tuyay will graduate in May with a marketing degree. He'd like to sell real estate in Hawaii.

"I'll see if I can market myself good enough to sell homes," he said. "I think I have pretty good personal skills and I'll try to use my name. Nowhere else in the United States you can use your name as a student-athlete like you can here."

Tuyay has high hopes for the program after he leaves, predicting there will be a second NCAA title within the next two years. He would also like to leave with one thing: the school assist record.

Tuyay needs just 158 more to pass Curt Vaughan (4,557) for No. 1.


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