POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 01:33 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2010
Home is where the heart is for Ginger Long.
The 6-foot outside hitter once pined to leave the islands and take on a collegiate volleyball challenge on the continent. Yesterday, however, the Kamehameha-Maui standout inked a letter of intent to stay home and play for the nationally ranked University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine.
"I'm excited. At first, I didn't want to stay at home. As it came down to it, my top choices included UH because the program is doing so well, the coaches are great and they're doing great in the conference as well as nationally," she said. "I figured that would be the right fit, since I'm not one for cold weather and I love the way the (UH) program is run."
Long picked UH from a list of 20 schools, including Washington State, UC Irvine, Pacific and Syracuse, that offered scholarships. She led her KS-Maui squad to a 14-0 record before the Warriors fell to Waiakea in the state tournament.
One seat away from Long was Mid-Pacific pitcher Lawrence Chew Jr., who also signed with the Rainbows. Kaeo Aliviado, Saint Louis' speedy all-state player, and Moanalua's Jordan DePonte also signed with UH.
"We had a lot, a lot, a lot of long practices," Chew said, noting the wealth of talent in this year's senior class at Mid-Pacific. "Our class advisor said we're one of the best classes ever."
Chew's teammate, infielder Justin Protacio, donned his multicolor Kansas cap as he signed his letter. The hat looked like an old Montreal Expos lid.
In all, more than two dozen local student-athletes put their oral commitments to writing shortly after 6 a.m. at the Honolulu Design Center yesterday, the earliest time the NCAA allows athletes to sign in the "early" letter-of-intent process.
The event was a smorgasbord of talent across the board. Recent girls volleyball state champions Talia Jardin-Fermantez of Kamehameha (Eastern Washington) and Nicole Sniffen (Saint Louis) are crossing the pond. Punahou setter Ali Santi will be en route to Georgia Tech and Kahuku outside hitter/setter Elizabeth Blake signed with Weber State.
Baseball player of the year Michael Suiter penned a deal with Santa Clara, turning down several other offers, including Hawaii and USC.
"Santa Clara showed the most interest," said Suiter, a center fielder.
Other Interscholastic League of Honolulu baseball players are heading to the mainland, including catcher Dane Fujinaka of MPI (Sacramento State), outfielder Kalei Contrades of Saint Louis (San Jose State), pitcher Carlos Rodriguez of 'Iolani (Oregon State) and infielder Ryan Yamane of Punahou (Northern Colorado).
The state's top boys volleyball players are departing after graduation. Player of the year Josh Taylor of Punahou will play for Pepperdine, while his teammate, Ben Lam, will join Kamehameha's Micah Christenson at USC.
Signing day was a bonanza for softball stars. Infielder Nicole Arata of state champion Campbell is going to Utah State, Mid-Pacific's Kayde Kochi is heading to Seattle University and Castle ace Leisha Liilii will stay home with Hawaii.
Punahou's Kayla Shimoda signed with Columbia and Kapolei's Kaitlyn Wills is going to Hawaii-Hilo.
Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance new executive director, T.J. Cuaresma, estimated that the signees at the event totaled about $1 million in scholarship value.