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Former Pearl City Standout Returns Home To Play For HPU

Marie Fujii. Photo from Marie Fujii.

For Marie Fujii, the 2013 college volleyball season can’t come fast enough. The so-called off-season is something the former Pearl City High School standout has only heard about. She lives volleyball.

“There isn’t a day that I don’t want to play,” said Fujii, who will play for Hawaii Pacific University in the fall after a stellar two-year career at Southern Idaho. “There’s no practice right now, so a bunch of us go out and play on our own. I can never get away from the sport. I still love it.”

Fujii is set to return to the Islands Friday, but in a sense, she never left, at least in spirit.

“I couldn’t handle being away from home that long,” she said. “I came home for every break. The main thing in going to HPU is that I’ll be able to play in front of my parents and my family. I always wanted to come back home and play here. My mom and my dad are my biggest support system. They taught me everything about volleyball.”

In HPU, Fujii joins an established program. The Sea Warriors were 17-8 last season under head coach Daryl Kapis.

“I’m definitely excited – I love their program because it is so competitive,” she said. “They’re not OK with just being good. They’re always pushing to do better.”

Fujii has been around volleyball for as long as she can remember, but there was no direct line to her playing competitively. She was playing soccer and basketball more in those years. “I grew up in the gym, I was a gym rat,” she admitted. “My parents were playing volleyball, and I was running around the gym.

“When I was in fifth grade, one of my elementary school teachers told me I should be playing volleyball competitively,” added Fujii. “I joined the Mililani Volleyball Club, and I knew then that volleyball would be my main sport.”

At Pearl City, Fujii was a four-year starter and two-time All-Conference selection under coach Stephanie Shigemasa.

It was prior to her junior season that Fujii switched to setter, the position at which she would blossom. “Being a setter, I love that I get to control the offense,” she said. “I like filling that leadership role. There’s a time for business and a time for pleasure, and volleyball is both for me.”

While at Southern Idaho, Fujii was part of a two-setter offensive system that produced a Division I Junior College Championship in 2012. Her team went 33-1 in 2012 and was 57-13 while Fujii was in the program.

“To get a quality person like Marie back to the island was a great catch for us,” said Kapis. “We have known about Marie prior to her leaving the Islands and are happy to have her back. To be coming from a team that won a national championship gives us someone who adds to our culture of winning we have here at Hawaii Pacific University.”

The Sea Warriors will open the season at home Aug. 31 against the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.