Living by Cardinal rule that team comes first
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
Stanford volleyball player Brad Lawson has already had a phenomenal season, but the sophomore is hoping to end it with his greatest moment yet when the Cardinal hosts the NCAA final four this weekend.
Lawson, a 2008 'Iolani graduate from Honolulu, is arguably the best player on the best team in the nation. The 6-foot-7 outside hitter was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year last week and helped Stanford win its third conference championship.
However, Lawson says the ultimate goal all season has been to win a national title.
"Individual honors are great, but team goals are most important and at this point in the season, going into the playoffs, it's all about the team right now," Lawson said. "Back in the fall, we set our big goal to win a national championship and everything is still in place for us to do that."
Stanford (22-6) is the top seed and plays fourth-seeded Ohio State (22-7) in tomorrow's semifinal. Cal State Northridge (23-9) and Penn State (23-7) meet in the other semifinal. Winners advance to Saturday's championship match.
All season the Cardinal has used a "Worst to First" motto to summarize its ascent from last in the MPSF in 2007 to the top of the conference this year. Two wins this weekend would culminate their efforts.
"That's definitely still a rallying point for us," Lawson said. "It's great for our confidence to come into a match being the No. 1 team in the nation, but we like to consider ourselves two-point underdogs going into each match. Having that little chip on your shoulder that we're not there yet, that plays to our advantage."
Lawson, who has started every match since arriving at Stanford, is a big reason for the team's success this season. He hit .376, led the team in kills (4.84) and service aces (0.36) per set, and was third in digs (1.55), fourth in blocks (0.56) and fourth in assists (0.44).
"It has been a great year for me and for our team," Lawson said. "As far as individual play, I feel like I've improved my game, which I credit to my coaches, our weight-lifting coaches and mostly, the players around me."
Lawson said at the conclusion of his freshman year, after Stanford had lost in the first round of the MPSF tournament, the returning players made a commitment to take the program to the next level.
"We only lost one senior last season, so we all realized what kind of potential we had even at that point," Lawson said. "We got most of our core group back and we've done the necessary things to get us to this point."
Lawson credits the addition of assistant coach Chris McLachlin to the staff as another positive influence this year.
"He came in at the beginning of the fall, helps us with sports psychology and team building and he really made us realize that we had a great opportunity ahead of us," Lawson said.
McLachlin, a longtime Punahou School coach, has provided color commentary for University of Hawai'i men's and women's volleyball broadcasts on K5. McLachlin and Lawson are two of the many Hawai'i connections on the Stanford team.
Six others on the Cardinal roster are from the 50th state: senior setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani '06), junior libero Jordan Inafuku (Kamehameha '07), junior outside hitter Spencer McLachlin (Punahou '07), junior middle blocker Max Halvorson (Punahou '07), sophomore libero Erik Shoji (Punahou '08) and freshman setter Chandler Ka'a'a (Kamehameha-Hawai'i '09).
Lawson and both Shojis were named First Team All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
"It's great to be playing with your best friends from back home," Lawson said. "I've known a lot of these guys from playing volleyball together in Hawai'i. People call us the 'second Hawai'i team.' "
Lawson has an especially close bond with Kawika Shoji, whom he played with for two years at 'Iolani.
"It's been awesome to play together again," Lawson said. "He's a great team leader and he has been one here, just like at 'Iolani. I love playing with him as my setter and to come back and achieve our goals together has been awesome."
Lawson won't have to shoulder the load this weekend as the Cardinal has numerous options on offense. Senior outside hitter Evan Romero was the MPSF Tournament MVP and earned second-team All-America honors after averaging 4.60 kills per set.
"I think that's the strength of our team: that we have so many options," Lawson said. "Our strength is in numbers."
Stanford will have momentum on its side going into tomorrow's semifinal having won four straight matches and seven of its last eight. Two of Stanford's losses on the season came against Cal State Northridge, whom the Cardinal finally defeated in straight sets in last Saturday's MPSF final.
"Even though we figured that we would get the at-large berth to the final four, to come out and beat Northridge was really important for us because they were a stumbling block for us during the regular season," Lawson said. "I think it was a true test of character for us. All season we've talked about peaking and finishing strong so hopefully we can keep it going."
The semifinal between Cal State Northridge and Penn State will be televised live on ESPNU and ESPN2 at 3 p.m. Stanford and Ohio State will be carried on ESPNU at about 5:30 p.m.
• BYU sophomore Futi Tavana (Kaua'i '06 of Kalaheo) put down 10 kills and hit .250 in a five-set loss to Cal State Northridge Thursday in an MPSF semifinal. Tavana also had four digs and five block assists for the Cougars (22-9).
• Irvine Valley sophomore libero Nick Castello (ASSETS '07 of Honolulu) has been named the 2010 All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Men's Volleyball Most Valuable Player and to the PCAC First Team.
TRACK & FIELD
• Chelsea Machida (Maui '07 of Kahului) of Linfield (Ore.) defended her women's high jump title by clearing 5 feet, 3 1/4; inches at the Northwest Conference Championships on April 23 and 24. Amanda Tamanaha (St. Andrew's '09 of Honolulu) placed seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 12:16.51, helping Willamette (Ore.) win the women's team title. Jenna Matsumoto (University High '07 of Kailua) of Pacific (Ore.) was fifth in the 400 hurdles (1:08.99) and sixth in the 100 hurdles (16.19). Teammate Nicole Smith (Kamehameha-Maui '07 of Wailuku) was 15th in the 100 (13.47) and 200 (28.33). In the field events for Pacific, Julia Naumes (Kohala '09 of Kamuela) was ninth in the discus (99-5) and 10th in the shot put (32-7 3/4), Murphy Busek (Waiakea '07 of Mountain View) was ninth in the hammer throw (154-7) and 16th in the shot put (41-11 1/4;) and Nicole Brown (St. Anthony '08 of Wailuku) was 12th in the triple jump (31-7 1/4). In the men's pole vault, Willamette's Colby Takeda ('Iolani '07 of Mililani) was fifth (13-8 1/4;) and Pacific's Ryan Terao (Punahou '08 of Kāne'ohe) was ninth (12-8 1/4;).
• Mark Miller (St. Anthony '06 of Wailuku) finished sixth in the men's javelin (166-10) to help Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) win the Golden State Athletic Conference Championships April 23 and 24. Point Loma finished second in the women's team standings with Bailey Massenburg (King Kekaulike '09 of Kula) running on the second-place 4x800 relay team and Agnes Faaleaoga (Kailua '08 of Waimānalo) finishing third in the discus (122-11).
• Alexa Untermann (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) was third in the women's high jump (4-11) at Saturday's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Championships. Untermann, last year's high jump champion, ran on the fifth-place 4x400 team.
• Idaho State's Bryce Jenkins (Leilehua '09 of Wahiawā) was 11th in the 3,000 run (9:23.41) and fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:59.03) at Saturday's Southern Utah Invite.
• Pacific (Ore.) senior second baseman Kelli Nishitomi (Castle '06 of Kāne'ohe) was named All-Northwest Conference Honorable Mention. Nishitomi, batting in the second spot in the lineup, had a .366 average, with 25 runs scored and 13 RBIs.
• James Madison's Nicole Sakamoto (Kalani '08 of Honolulu) was one of three individuals to earn an at-large berth to this week's NCAA East Regional. Sakamoto finished second at this year's Colonial Athletic Association championship and earned league first-team honors.
• DePauw (Ind.) junior Janelle Arita (Punahou '07 of Mililani) was named Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
• Paige Sumida (Waiākea '06 of Hilo) of Redlands (Calif.) was named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Teammate Sara Yoshinaga ('Iolani '07 of Honolulu) was named to the SCIAC second team. In men's tennis, Mikey Lim (Punahou '06 of Honolulu) of Claremont McKenna (Calif.) was named to the SCIAC first team. Redlands' Keven Wong (Le Jardin '07 of Kāne'ohe) was named to the SCIAC second team.
• Demetria Woods (Radford '09 of Pearl City) of Southern (La.) was recently named Southwestern Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. Woods was also named to the first team in singles and doubles. Southern won the SWAC women's title.
WOMEN'S WATER POLO
• Occidental (Calif.) junior attacker Karie Nickle (Kamehameha '07 of Honolulu) was named to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first team.
• Punahou senior Matthew Feldman has committed to play basketball at Trinity (Texas) next season. Trinity is an NCAA Division III school that competes in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
• St. Francis senior Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin signed a letter of intent to play softball with East Carolina. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, who was recruited as a center fielder, is a switch-hitter and batted .387 last season.
Advertiser Staff Writer Stanley Lee contributed to this report.