UHS grad sets pace for Azusa Pacific
By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer
In a match that was four years in the making, Mahea Burgess' family and friends will get to see her play collegiate volleyball for the first time tonight.
Burgess, a 1999 University High graduate from Kaimuki, will lead Azusa Pacific of California against Hawai'i Pacific at 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's Priory gym.
She arrives in Honolulu as Azusa Pacific's career record holder in assists, nearing 4,000 and counting. She is on track to break the career record in service aces this season and, after last night's match against UH-Hilo on the Big Island, she is No. 8 on the Cougars' career list in digs.
Coach Gerry Gregory started trying to arrange a trip to Hawai'i soon after Burgess took over as Azusa's starting setter early in her freshman season and it finally came to fruition in her senior year.
"I'm excited to see my family and friends, who have never seen me play in person while I've been in college," Burgess said last week. "I send videos home after every game and my mom watches every one of them, so it will be fun for her to see me play live and in person.
"I'm homesick for the first time since my freshman year, but I think it's because the trip is so close."
Though suddenly homesick, Burgess doesn't regret her choice of a Mainland college. "My experience at Azusa Pacific has been amazing," she said. "It has completely changed me as a person. I've grown so much as a person spiritually and emotionally. And it has made me come to appreciate Hawai'i even more."
Coach Gregory, in her 19th year at Azusa Pacific, will not soon forget Burgess.
"Mahea is pivotal to our success," Gregory said. "She is the reason this team has improved over the past couple of years.
"She has been a team captain since her sophomore year and has been a real inspirational leader for this team. As far as on the court goes, she has brought ball control to our lineup as well as a refinement that we had not had for quite some time."
Burgess' career numbers, before last night's match at Hilo: 103 matches, 355 games, 3,823 assists (10.76 per game; 128 aces (0.36 per game); 926 digs (2.61 per game).
ALL IN THE FAMILY: One of Mahea Burgess' cousins is Kelly Figueira, state girls long jump record holder, who is a freshman at Cal State-Fullerton. ... Burgess set the Azusa Pacific single-season assists record of 1,593 in 2000. ... Although only 5 feet 4, she had six block assists in the first five matches this season.
St. John's (New York)
Coach Joanne Persico Smith likes her two starters from Hawai'i so much that she is intent on getting more.
Juniors Rosalyn Dang (Punahou '00 of St. Louis Heights) and Robyn Kurasaki (Maryknoll '00 of Mililani) are team co-captains and appear on the cover of the Red Storm's media guide.
Persico Smith said she is "heavily recruiting" 6-foot middle blocker Puna Richardson and setter Marissa Chow of Punahou. Richardson made an official visit last week and Chow made an unofficial visit earlier. "She loved it," Persico Smith said.
"I have been very impressed with the technique and ball-control skills that the Hawai'i club players possess," said Persico Smith, who recruits at the big annual tournament in Las Vegas.
Coaches chose Kurasaki as Big East Conference Rookie of the Year and Northeast Region Freshman of the Year in 2000 her first season as a full-time setter. She has started every game of her three-year career at St. John's and Dang has started all but three.
With two seasons to go, Kurasaki already is No. 2 on the St. John's career assists list with 2,526.
Dang, who plays right-side hitter, led the team in attacking percentage last season at .219. She thrived in the classroom as well, with a 3.6 grade-point average.
"They have been a complete pleasure to coach," Persico Smith said. "They are extremely mature, very personable, very athletic, excellent volleyball players, who handle corrective criticism extremely well.
"And they are great, great young ladies, growing and maturing more each day in New York.
"Although they are very far away from home, they have thrived at our university. We have many different cultures from many different places."
Richardson, who also is a talented swimmer and water polo player, plans to visit Saint Mary's in California and maybe Santa Clara and Texas A&M.
The early signing period is Nov. 13-20.
Freshman Elizabeth Narkon (St. Francis '02 of Hawai'i Kai) has decided to redshirt this season to continue rehabilitating her right knee. She tore her right outer meniscus ligament in the Ha'ili tournament in Hilo last spring.
Meanwhile, senior co-captain Corrie Machesky (Hawai'i Prep '99 of Kamuela) recorded career highs of 13 kills and 11 digs just her second career double-double and three aces and three blocks in a four-game loss to San Jose State Friday.
"Corrie thrives on the competition," said coach Michelle Hansen.
In a dress-rehearsal scrimmage the previous week, Machesky had 21 kills, 20 digs, seven assists and five blocks with a .419 attack percentage.
Hansen said Machesky would start the season on the right side but "can hit at either outside position, and can play the middle also."
"We could have used Liz this year," Hansen said, "but we decided last week that the best thing to get the most out of her in the future would be to redshirt her."
Sophomore Holly Yamada (Farrington '01) is the shortest player on the team, but starts at outside hitter and is proving she belongs there.
"Last year she was a defensive specialist, and this year she's become probably our most offensive player," coach Michelle Buckner said.
Yamada served 10 aces and put down 59 kills in four matches at the Nebraska-Omaha Invitational last weekend. "She hit .410 on 60 swings in our second match," Buckner said.
"She is 5-6 on a good day and goes up against huge blockers and out-jumps most of them," Buckner said. "She is so fast, so explosive, and super smart."
Yamada has increased her vertical leap from 23 inches to 30 inches in one year, said Buckner and Jenic Tumaneng, her coach on two O'ahu Interscholastic Association championship teams at Farrington. She can touch 9 feet 5 with a two-step approach.
The spring comes from her leg strength; Yamada can squat lift more than 300 pounds.
"People notice her because she is so much fun," Buckner said. "She is enjoying herself and smiling all the time."
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference newsletter Monday put Yamada on the list of Players to Watch.
"She'll be a big star here," Buckner said.
Her brother, Marvin Yamada, was a sophomore defensive specialist for the University of Hawai'i's NCAA men's championship team last season.