Hawaii-Hilo is PWC favorite


POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

The challenges will be on and off the court for Pacific West Conference volleyball teams. The economy is affecting everything from travel schedules to travel rosters.

“;It's hit us pretty hard,”; Hawaii-Hilo coach Bruce Atkinson said. “;We'll be doing a lot of traveling and playing on the same days, and we'll be a little weary. I'm not sure if we'll carry the same travel roster.

“;We've been doing some creative fundraising, working out some hotel deals. We'll try to stay as close to normal as possible, but it will be a challenge.”;

The Vulcans also will be challenged to live up to the role of favorite. Hawaii-Hilo, the 2007 PWC champion, was the coaches' choice to win the title this season.

Anchoring the Vulcans are senior hitter Josimara Pinheiro, selected as the PWC preseason player of the year, and senior middle Fabiane Seben, also a member of the preseason All-PWC team. Joining the two Vulcans are Hawaii Pacific junior middle Kelly Balanay; Brigham Young-Hawaii sophomore hitter Losaline Faka'osi; Dixie State senior hitter Katie Luna; Academy of Art junior hitter Dan Yang; and Grand Canyon sophomore libero Laurann Durbin.

The PWC has expanded to include former NAIA member Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif. The addition of a third Bay Area team will help travel expenses, the coaches agreed during yesterday's media day teleconference.

“;Travel has been an issue, and with three teams in the area, it will help balance things in our conference schedule,”; Notre Dame de Namur coach Devin Grant said.

Hawaii prep products continue to dot the rosters of the PWC mainland teams. On the NDNU roster are senior libero Sonya Legaspi (Radford '06) and freshman opposite Alayna Galeai (Kahuku '09).

Academy of Art, in just its second season of athletic competition, has junior hitter Wila Lavea (Honokaa '07), who transferred after her freshman season at Hawaii-Hilo. Also on the Urban Knights' roster is Angela Heather (Campbell '08), a sophomore hitter.

With six returning starters and plenty of size, Academy of Art is expected to press favored Hawaii-Hilo and defending PWC champion Brigham Young-Hawaii. The Urban Knights were picked to finish last in 2008 but finished third; they're picked to finish third this year but “;we're even taller and more athletic,”; coach Marcus Young said.

Although BYU-Hawaii is in a rebuilding mode after losing three starters, few count out the Seasiders. BYUH graduated setter LeeAnn Mapu, the PWC player of the year, and two all-conference starters in middle Faylynn Merrick and leftside hitter Agnes Tuilevuka.

“;We are untested, but our strong point is ballhandling and defense,”; BYUH coach Wilfred Navalta said. “;If I had to announce a starting lineup, we'd have four sophomores, a senior and a junior out there. We'll be competitive.”;

So should the other two programs from Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade. HPU returns 10 players, including PWC libero of the year Tricia Yoshimura and Balanay, who led the conference in hitting percentage. Coach Daryl Kapis also expects freshman hitter Sanoe Recca (Kamehameha '09) to make an impact.

As for Chaminade, “;We're going to be small and mighty,”; said coach Nahaku Brown, hired last month. “;We return nine and a lot of skill.”;

All but four Silverswords are from Hawaii. Among the freshmen expected to help immediately are hitter Whitney Viveros (Kamehameha) and middle Kylee Pedro (Mid-Pacific).