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by Joanne Corpuz, staff writer
As PacWest Conference Champions, the HPU Sea Warrior softball team begins the 2008 season with a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 2 to defend its title against Brigham Young University-Hawai‘i. The game was canceled due to bad weather and rescheduled to Monday, Feb. 18 at BYU-Hawai‘i. First pitch is set for 12:00 p.m. The Sea Warriors also canceled their road trip to Hilo due to bad weather and will open the season with a televised game on OC-16 against BYU-Hawai‘i on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3:00 p.m. at Patsy Mink’s Central O‘ahu Regional Park.

Last year, the HPU softball team won the PacWest Conference championship with a 17-3 record and an overall record of 34-16, under the guidance of Co-Head Coaches, Howard Okita and Bryan Nakasone.

This season, the Lady Sea Warriors hope to go even further. They return with several top players to share the field with some exciting and talented newcomers.

New to the team is freshman Kozy Toriano (Hilo, HI). She enters the spring season with a good spirit and impeccable talent as the only local recruit from Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i. Like many of her teammates, Toriano takes pride in her passion and love for the sport. “As a team we work really hard each and every day in hopes of having a successful season by winning Regionals and having fun playing the sport we enjoy.”

“ Softball is a team sport,” Okita said, explaining that HPU’s “strengths this year include an experienced and seasoned team as we return eight out of 10 starters and have 13 out of 17 returning players on our roster.”

Okita plans to employ the same type of training and strategies that has made the team successful in the past, and he expects to complete the season with a winning record and hopefully advance to a postseason championship. “More importantly,” said Co-Head Coach Nakasone, “we strive for our players to have a 100 percent graduation rate.”

Senior Nicole Kalakau (Waimanalo), majoring in corporate communications with a minor in intercultural communications, provides the team not only with strong leadership as a team captain, but also a prime example to all of the girls of a determined mindset.

Returning senior Punahele Waiolama (Waimanalo), an international business major, said she looks forward to a successful season competing against teams from both the conference and regional divisions. Waiolama believes that the team has enough talent to be successful since many of the players are capable of playing multiple positions. “We can count on them when we need them to perform in game situations,” Waiolama said.

Along with Kalakau and Waiolama the other veterans try to keep the younger girls excited about the team and the season with fun and innovative things to do to keep up team morale.

Teamwork and dynamics carry on to the actual game itself. Kalakau’s main focus is to be a strong force in the batting lineup. She also hopes to consistently contribute to team wins, generating runs as well as supporting her teammates.

For junior Courtney Kessell (Waimanalo) the game starts with the first pitch. She hopes to provide what she tries to do every year. When Kessell steps onto that field, her strategy is to be a smarter pitcher by outthinking the batter every pitch.

Kalakau believes, “We definitely have the potential to do well in both our conference and the west region. Because we were last year’s conference champions I think we have big expectations to live up to,” she added. “I hope to surpass everyone’s expectations and go even further than last year.”


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