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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Undersized Kimball steps up for LMU

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's been a much bigger challenge this year, says Kealani "Kea" Kimball; nevertheless she repeated as a first-team All-West Coast Conference volleyball selection.

At "almost 5-feet-11," Kimball, a 2000 Kamehameha Schools graduate from Kaunakakai, Moloka'i, might be the shortest middle in a conference with four top-25 teams.

"This season was a much bigger challenge with all the injuries we had," Kimball said, "and I also was challenged a bit more in the back row.

"The libero (a new defensive position) usually comes in for middles, and I worked more on defense so I could stay on the court and not be replaced by the libero," she said.

Her improvement was shown in statistics. She was second on the team in digs (2.19 per game). Kimball, one of two Lions who played all 100 games, also was second on the team in attacks (670) and kills per game (2.81).

She had a .306 hitting percentage and 94 total blocks (26 solo and 68 assists), nearly 1 per game.

Part of the challenge for Loyola Marymount was replacing two setters — a projected starter who was injured and a walk-on replacement who walked off with seven matches left.

Meeting the late-season challenge was freshman Courtney Chai (Kamehameha '02 of Kane'ohe). After playing one game in the first 20 matches at defensive specialist, Chai started all 27 games at setter the last seven matches.

"She didn't even touch a ball most of the season, but she stepped in and did it," Kimball said. "You could see her progress in 3 or 4 weeks." Chai finished with 9.0 assists per game, and had 63 assists and 16 digs in a five-game loss to 11th-ranked Santa Clara.

For those last seven matches, half the Lions' starting lineup was from Hawai'i. Another true freshman, 5-10 Michelle Look (Punahou '02 of Kailua) started nearly all season at outside hitter.

"She has good fire in her, she's feisty," and she will improve a lot during her first spring practice, that's when individual skills are developed, Kimball said.

Kimball is looking forward to September, when the Lions will play two matches in a pre-season tournament at the University of Hawai'i. "I'm looking forward to coming home," she said. "It's been a dream of mine for a long time to play at Stan Sheriff."

Loyola Marymount was supposed to play at UH in September 2001, but the trip was canceled because of the Sept. 11 attacks.


• Western New Mexico: Sophomore outside hitter Kimberly Tano (St. Francis '01 of Kane'ohe) was selected to the 12-player American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division II All-Pacific Region team, announced on Tuesday.

Tano, cousin of University of Hawai'i hitter Nohea Tano, averaged 3.70 kills and 3.38 digs in 32 matches.