Stanford's Tom set for title defense
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
She leaps to form tall blocks in a single bound, spikes faster than a speeding bullet and digs shots hit with locomotive-like power. What more can Logan Tom do with a volleyball?
Tom has three All-American plaques, AVCA Player of the Year and NCAA Championship trophies, and an Olympic appearance before her senior season at Stanford. Yet yesterday, as the Cardinal practiced for tonight's exhibition against the University of Hawai'i, the all-world outside hitter was playing back-up setter.
"She learns really fast, never been trained," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "We felt we owed it to her to add to her game. She needed the most improvement at setter. She's never set in a game. She's really pretty good."
Dunning promises she won't set tonight, but the thought of it is mind-boggling. It is as if he is running out of challenges for the country's finest player.
Everyone else is running out of adjectives.
"Logan Tom is my idol," Hawai'i All-American Lily Kahumoku said. "She is amazing and TV doesn't do that girl justice. She's like Costas (Theocharidis). She's out of control. Words can't describe it."
Tom just rolls with it. She was the national team's kill leader as a 16-year-old. At 18, she graduated first in her class, with a 4.0 grade point average at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, and lifted Stanford into the final four as a freshman. At 19, she started in the Olympics, helping the U.S. to fourth place. At 20, she played a near-perfect match to give the Cardinal its fifth championship in the last decade.
Her roots return to Manoa, where her father's family still lives. Tom's father Mel, a 1960 Maryknoll graduate, was one of Hawai'i's most gifted high school athletes and the Philadelphia Eagles' MVP in 1968. His daughter was born in Napa, Calif., and considers Hawai'i her second home.
Make that third. She has spent much of her life in volleyball gyms, precociously working her way into the international spotlight.
"Who else in our game has that wealth of experience to lean on when they're out on the court?" Dunning said. "She was given the entree to get that experience because of her skills. Lots of her skills are abnormal extraordinary vision, remarkable competitiveness, amazing athletic balance."
Dunning inherited Tom, and 2001 Freshman of the Year Ogonna Nnamani, less than a year ago. After 16 years at University of the Pacific, he was offered the Stanford job the day he broke ground on an addition to his Stockton house.
Dunning lived in the Bay Area 25 years and his wife grew up there. He insists it was the only job he would have considered. He headed west and the Cardinal did everything he asked in a successful transition season.
"There was a little magic that was going on for some strange reason last season," Dunning said. "That happens in the world sometimes. It wasn't like we weren't good enough to win, but my memory will be ... I just get a little smile because part of it is like a lot of championships there's no way to explain it."
If anyone could, it would be him. In his first year at UOP, he also won a championship.
"I know more now," he said. "I know how hard it is, know the realities of it. That made it easier because I could coach more intelligently."
WHAT: Exhibition collegiate volleyball WHO: Hawai'i vs. Stanford WHEN: Today, 7 p.m. WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center. TICKETS: All general admission, except for $20 courtside seats. $7 adults, $6 for senior citizens (65-over) and $4 for UH students and those age 4-high school. PARKING: $3.
WHAT: Exhibition collegiate volleyball
WHO: Hawai'i vs. Stanford
WHEN: Today, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center.
TICKETS: All general admission, except for $20 courtside seats. $7 adults, $6 for senior citizens (65-over) and $4 for UH students and those age 4-high school.
"You get such a high when you come back from being down," Tom said, "and everyone thinking it's a lost cause ... proving yourself.
"It was magical in a way. When you look at Long Beach, they were all strong. Nebraska was all these tall girls who had played since they were little. Our team just comes from everywhere, you can see the different characters on our team. I don't know. It was just magic the way we came together at the end."
Now, five seniors are gone and two recruits won't be around for a few months. It is time to think about defending. Stanford is the only team that has done that in 12 years.
"We have to be just as hungry as the people who want a piece of us," Dunning said. "That's part of why we came here. Hawai'i is one of the people that can take a piece out of us."
QUICK SETS: Leahi Hall, from Haiku, Maui, and King Kekaulike High School, is a defensive specialist for Stanford. ... The teams play again Nov. 10 in Honolulu.