BYU-Hawaii Is Rolling In PacWest
I was in Laie a few weeks ago to attend a battle of nationally ranked women’s volleyball teams. Like most of those in attendance, I was anticipating an intense battle between BYU-Hawaii and Grand Canyon that would likely go five sets and last nearly three hours. Instead, the host Seasiders won the first set by an amazingly lopsided score of 24-7 and went on to win in three quick sets.
“We were expecting (it) to be more competitive,” BYU-Hawaii head coach Wil Navalta told me after the match. “We were very fortunate.”
“Fortunate” is a word that coaches and some players often throw around when they are trying to display humility even when they know they are really good. Coach Navalta, who has won a number of national titles in NCAA Division II and NAIA, knows how to practice humility, but he also has to know that this year’s Seasiders team is more than just fortunate.
At this writing, BYU-Hawaii is undefeated in PacWest play and has steadily climbed in the national AVCA rankings. Its only losses occurred the first week of the season when it lost in a Minnesota tournament to the defending national champion and the team ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Since then, the Seasiders have reeled off lopsided victory after lopsided victory over every team they’ve faced. No team has yet to win a set from them since that opening week of the season. In conference statistics, BYU-Hawaii leads in virtually every category – hitting percentage, kills, blocks, assists, lowest opponents hitting percentage – and most by a wide margin.
When I asked Coach Navalta to look up at the many national championship banners in the Cannon Activities Center and asked if he thought there might be another one there soon, he laughed. Again, he played the humble role, and said with a big smile, “We’ll see. We’ll see. We’ve got a long way to go.”
The Seasiders take their unbeaten conference mark on the road over the next several days when they travel to Northern California to play rival PacWest teams from San Rafael to Fresno. Perhaps the toughest test will be a clash of titans Oct. 30 in the central valley, when BYU-Hawaii takes on another conference unbeaten, powerful Fresno Pacific.
That contest is part of a grueling five-match road trip that will test BYUHawaii’s talent and will.
Among the most talented Seasiders are Lauren Hagemeyer, Stella Chen, Ariel Hsu, Michelle Peters Tevaga and setter Michelle Chen. Each of these young women is among the conference leaders in individual statistical categories, and playing together as a unit, each has taken her own game to a new level.
So deep is this talent pool that opposing teams can’t key in on one specific player. If you double up on Hagemeyer, for instance, you’re likely to get a cross-court winner from Chen. If you worry about Chen, then Hsu or Tevaga will make you pay. It’s a collective team effort that has left opposing teams shaking their heads.
Whether the 2012 Seasiders is truly a team of destiny that gives Coach Navalta a chance for yet another one of those national championship banners will have to play it out on the court. But one thing’s for certain: Navalta and his entire BYU-Hawaii team will feel “fortunate” with every single big point and every single impressive victory.