Hawaii Grown Report

Six of Taft's nine players are from Hawaii, and their coach was born here. Bottom row (from left) Paepaetele Poasa, Kaena Apana, Janice Fonoti and Norresha Baker. Second row: Lisa Sotelo, head coach Kanoe Bandy, Lehua Yap. Third row, Pikake Nutter-Gaudet, Christi Haia. Top: Kasey Escobedo.

Hawaii players tip Taft

With five starters from Oahu, the school
is in the California JC tournament
for the first time in its history

Taft College is going to the California community college volleyball championship tournament tomorrow for the first time, of special note in Hawaii because:

» Five of Taft's six starters are from Oahu public schools.

» Two of the five were chosen first-team all-state by coaches and had the most kills and assists among the nearly 1,000 players on California's 83 community college teams.

» Every one of the "Hawaiian Five," as California Central Valley media call them, were chosen by coaches on the All-Central Valley Conference team.

» And they accomplished all of that while coaching themselves part of the time because their head coach had to drive the assistant coach (her sister) 93 miles to Los Angeles for cancer treatment almost every week.

Taft (21-1) is one of eight teams that qualified for the California Commission on Athletics championship tournament tomorrow through Sunday at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Taft rolls into the tournament with 21 straight victories and 13 straight 3-game sweeps.

These are the players who make Taft a championship challenger:

» Sophomore setter Lehua Yap (Nanakuli '03), Most Valuable Player in the Central Valley Conference, first-team all-state, and the state leader in assists with 12.44 per game. Yap is also all-conference in softball.

» Freshman left-side hitter Kaena Apana (Nanakuli '04), first-team all-state, first-team all-conference and the state leader in kills with 402 (her 4.56 average per game was second among full-time players). Also digs 4.73 balls per game.

» Sophomore middle blocker Janice Fonoti (Farrington '03), first-team all-conference, averages 1.12 blocks and 3.24 digs per game and hits .427. Fonoti, who is 5-11, can jump 19 inches over her head.

» Freshman Pikake Nutter-Gaudet (Leilehua '04), first-team all-conference, averages 4.56 kills and 3.23 digs per game.

» Redshirt freshman Paepaetele Poasa (Farrington '03), second-team all-conference, has a .422 attack percentage and 0.88 blocks per game.

A sixth player from Hawaii on Taft's nine-player roster is freshman Christy Haia (Sacred Hearts '03 of Waimanalo), who backs up the outside hitters.

Honolulu-born Kanoe Bandy, who describes herself as a "mainland Hawaiian -- the girls know they can talk pidgin to me" was chosen conference and Northern California Coach of the Year in her 17th season as Taft's head coach.

It is not unusual for Taft to be dominated by Hawaii volleyball players. There were seven on last year's conference championship team and eight in 2002.

But although they warm up with a haka dance, Bandy says, "I do not allow them to separate themselves as Hawaii kids."

Still, Fonoti says, anyone who watches a Taft match can see this is a Hawaiian team.

"The way we act toward each other and toward other people. You can see it on the court. We play with heart."

Part of the reason for that is the players' reaction to the illness of Bandy's sister and assistant coach, Keali'i Pearl.

Pearl, 28, suffers from Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer of the muscle and bone in her shoulder blade.

Surgery is planned to remove her scapula and substitute an artificial one after the state tournament. She insisted it be delayed until volleyball was pau.

Bandy has driven Pearl to the University of Southern California Medical Center weekly for chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Poasa, with help from co-captains Yap and Fonoti, runs Taft's practices when the coaches are gone.

"No other group of players I've coached before could handle this," Bandy said. "They face huge challenges because of this. I know this is something they did not sign up for when they decided to come here."

Fonoti, whose smile is as big as her block, says, "Because we run practice ourselves, it has pulled us even closer. We have pushed ourselves to run, not jog, during conditioning and to discipline ourselves."

Poasa says, "Our team is like a big family. We all care for one another."

For more news about student-athletes from Hawaii at mainland colleges,
visit www.hhsaa.org or www.sportshigh.com


Dizon collecting honors
like tackles

Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon (Waimea '04) yesterday was named football Defensive Freshman of the Year by the Big 12 Conference.

Dizon set a Colorado record of 72 tackles by a freshman and was the first true freshman to start a season-opening game at inside linebacker for the Buffs.

Colorado junior tackle Vaka Manupuna (Saint Louis '01 of Kihei, Maui) received honorable mention as a defensive lineman.

Mountain West

Utah senior guard Chris Kemoeatu and BYU senior rover Aaron Francisco, both 2001 Kahuku High graduates, were named first-team All-Mountain West Conference on Tuesday.

Francisco, of Laie, also made the first team last season. He has been called one of the hardest hitters in college football. Francisco had 88 tackles this year.

Big Ten

Wisconsin junior center Donovan Raiola (Kamehameha '01 of Kaimuki) received honorable mention in voting by Big Ten coaches.


Arizona senior center Keoki Fraser (Kailua '00) and Washington junior linebacker Joe Lobendahn (Saint Louis '01 of Pearl City) received honorable mentions in voting by coaches.

Lobendahn led Washington in tackles with 100 in 10 games before he broke his left wrist and missed the final game.

Volleyball All-American

Western New Mexico sophomore Liz Narkon, a 2002 Saint Francis graduate from Hawaii Kai, was named a third-team NCAA Division II All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Narkon was chosen first-team All-Pacific Region by the AVCA and earned recognition on all-academic teams as well.

She was the only sophomore on the Pacific Region team and one of four on the All-America team.


Oregon sophomore Sarah Mason (St. Joseph '03 of Hilo) won honorable mention on the coaches' All-Pac-10 team.

She led the Pac-10 in service aces with 37 despite missing four matches with a sprained ankle and ranked fifth in kills with 4.01 per game.

Mason came back after her injury to get 15 or more kills in each of the Ducks' last four matches.

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