An Exciting Fall For The PacWest

As commissioner of the PacWest, I don’t play favorites. When people ask me who I’m rooting for, I tell them, “All our teams.” But I must admit that I get excited when I hear about certain results. As our fall conference season kicked off this month, I was really proud of the Chaminade men’s soccer team when the Silverswords opened PacWest conference play with a 0-0 double overtime tie against island rival BYU-Hawaii. The ‘Swords had struggled over the years and were winless a year ago, so a tie was a step in the right direction.

A few days later, Chaminade went into overtime again, against UH-Hilo. This time, the ‘Swords finished strong when Dayton Sato kicked the game-winning goal for an emotional 3-2 victory. The early-season win propelled Chaminade into a lofty spot in the PacWest standings.

Credit for this resurgence goes in part to head coach Jason Higgins, a former top assistant at SMU, Dayton and Rutgers. At his previous head coaching job, he led Thomas College into the NCAA tournament for the first time in decades. He hopes to keep up his winning ways in a tough PacWest schedule that includes defending conference co-champions Hawaii Pacific and California Baptist.

The PacWest will be especially challenging this year since the league is now 14 schools strong and the largest NCAA Division II conference in the West region. Northern California soccer powerhouses Notre Dame de Namur and Fresno Pacific are in the Islands this week and will test the resolve of Hawaii’s teams in both men’s and women’s soccer. Dominican, Academy of Art and newcomer Holy Names will be island-bound in late October.

On the women’s side, BYU-Hawaii and HPU appear to be the Islands’ top two soccer contenders. HPU is led by former Pearl City standout Meghan Fuller, while the Seasiders are bonding quickly behind second-year head coach Alex Ruegner. California Baptist is the reigning conference champion, and the Hawaii teams will have to face the Lancers on the road this season.

In women’s volleyball, BYU-Hawaii is once again back in the national rankings. Head coach Wil Navalta, who has 10 national championships to his credit, including two NCAA Division II titles, has a solid team that is trying to make its third straight NCAA regional appearance this November. The Seasiders will get a severe test for island superiority this fall from Daryl Kapis’ Hawaii Pacific squad. Both HPU and BYUH secured victories against other nationally ranked teams during the non-conference season.

PacWest volleyball fans will get a chance to see the new conference schools in early October when Azusa Pacific and Point Loma come to town. Southwest contenders Grand Canyon and Dixie State are just finishing up a trip to the Islands. Those schools, along with volleyball power Fresno Pacific and California Baptist, will make this year’s title chase one to remember.