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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Lui helps put BYU soccer among elite

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

When Brigham Young upset No. 15 Villanova to reach the Elite Eight of the Women's NCAA Soccer Tournament for the first time, Charlene Lui immediately called her parents.

BYU's Charlene Lui, left, a Punahou School alum, has had a "big impact on our team," says coach Jennifer Rockwood.

BYU photo

"I asked them, 'Are you guys coming (to Connecticut)?' and they were like, 'Are we millionaires?' " she said.

If you ask BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood, Lui's contributions have been priceless.

Lui, a 2002 graduate of Punahou from Honolulu, played a pivotal role for the Cougars this season, which ended with a 3-1 loss at No. 18 Connecticut Saturday.

"She plays a crucial position," Rockwood said of the sophomore midfielder. "We want the ball at her feet. She does a nice job distributing the ball.

"She came in as a freshman and immediately had a big impact on our team. She's become a leader; everyone looks up to Charlene."

The Cougars, who lost to No. 14 Utah in the Mountain West Conference tournament final, were unsure about their chances of even earning a bid into the NCAA tournament.

"I don't think my coach thought we were going to get in," Lui said. "Because we are Mormon and don't play on Sundays, my coach thought that would be an issue."

But they proved worthy of an invitation, beating No. 11 Colorado, 2-0, in the first round and Idaho State, 2-0, in the second round. Lui said it was "awesome" to see Jennifer Loo, a 2003 Mililani graduate who plays for Idaho State.

"I noticed that we played some of our best soccer, because it was a do-or-die situation," Lui said. "You know that if you lose, you are out."

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Before the MWC tournament, Lui came home when BYU played Hawai'i on Oct. 27. The teams played to a 2-2 tie.

"We might not have done it if she wasn't on our team," Rockwood said of the Hawai'i trip. "But we told her that we would be back."

When she was being recruited by the BYU coaches, Lui said they promised to bring her back to Hawai'i at least once in her career.

"But it wasn't a huge factor in me deciding to come (to BYU)," she said.

Despite starting 26 games, scoring one goal and adding an assist, Lui "asked her mom, 'What if I don't make the trip? What if I don't get to play?' She's that kind of individual," said her father, Hilton.

Lui's father said that he would have flown up had BYU advanced to the Final Four.

Lui, who was an MWC All-Academic honoree last year, said that the time away for the extra travel did have an effect on the team.

"All of us were struggling in school," she said. "But one of our teammates said that 'you can always retake the class, but you can never relive this experience.'

"I might not be able to do it again in my time here."

BYU graduates six seniors, including three-time All-American Aleisha Rose.

Lui, who was a second-team MWC selection last year, said that her role has changed from more of a central midfielder to that of a defensive midfielder.

It allows her to either mark a forward or help out offensively, depending on the opposing team's configuration.

"That makes our team more strong defensively," Rockwood said.

What has made Lui more strong spiritually has been her church calling.

She helps to organize Family Home Evenings (FHE), with 30 other students, where they get together for lessons or activities.

"My testimony of the gospel has grown; I feel like I have so much more of an appreciation of the church and everything. I understand myself better, and I put more value on myself," Lui said.

She also feels grateful to be able to play for a team that upholds her values.

"That was so great that (other schools) had to make adjustments for us (by not playing on Sundays). It was a real special thing, because we were standing up for what we believe in and what we observe. I think it was really cool that they were making accommodations for that."

Notes: The Elite Eight appearance by Charlene Lui is the furthest a Hawai'i player has advanced since Crissy Marti, a Kapa'a graduate, went to the Final Four with Portland in 2001. The Pilots lost to North Carolina, 2-1. ... The Santa Clara and Creighton men's soccer teams advanced to the Elite Eight. Santa Clara, with freshman Chad Imhoff-Sils (Kamehameha '03 of 'Aiea) and redshirt freshman Keith DeVey (St. Anthony '02 of Kula), plays Michigan (15-6) Saturday. The Broncos (15-3-4) beat Coastal Carolina, 3-2, in overtime Sunday. Creighton beat Virgina, 3-1, Sunday. Junior goalkeeper Andrew Brown (Mililani '00 of Mililani) started in goal and had four saves. Creighton (12-5-4) plays St. John's (15-5-3) Friday.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.