Twenty-plus former BYU-Hawaii volleyball players met at the Cannon Activities Center to play in the school's last BYUH alumni volleyball game on Oct. 11.
Volleyball Assistant Coach Jay Akoi said, “We expected more than usual with it being our last alumni game, but not this many. This has been a great success. It’s so fun to see them here all grown up with their families.”
According to Akoi, the event has been almost exclusively attended by former players living in Hawaii, most of them still residing in the Laie community. Due to this being the last alumni game, more players than normal traveled long and far to return to the gym they called home court so many years ago. “We had alumni travel from Alaska, Utah, and Minnesota. We have girls who played as far back as 1994,” said Akoi.
The night’s activities began with a prayer around 6:30 p.m. After the ladies split into two teams, they began playing with those waiting their turn keeping score. Although it has been some time since some of them have laced up for collegiate volleyball, many of the ladies showed they still had the competitive edge.
“It was so great to see some of the players still have their skills after all these years. Some of them even look a little better now,” joked Akoi.
While playing the game back in their old stomping grounds on the CAC court, many said it was the opportunity to return and unite with their sisters and teammates that motivated them to make the long trek back to Laie.
Tammy Cornillez, who traveled from Minnesota for the festivities, played for the Seasiders from 1996-1999. “It’s awesome to be back together as sisters,” she said. “Playing here in this gym left a mark on us as volleyball players, but more importantly playing at BYU-Hawaii left a mark on our testimonies. Just being together and walking the beaches we used to run and just being with each other is the greatest thing.”
Cornillez and several of the other players participated in other activities outside of the organized alumni game. These activities include visiting the beach, attending the temple, and participate in Hawaii’s first ever Ragnar Relay Race on the Big Island.
“So a bunch of us that hated running when we played volleyball here are going to run this team relay race on Friday with a lot of faith,” chuckled Cornillez.
Running in the first Ragnar in Hawaii and playing in the last BYUH alumni game was important for former BYUH volleyball player Becky Brown.
“Being on the team changed my life,” said Brown. “I had an amazing experience here with so many wonderful people, and I grew as a person. I decided to serve a mission while I was here. I just love this place.”
Brown, like other Seasider alumni, said she is disappointed this is the last year of athletics. As she pondered on her former playing days, she said she was keen to remember the missionary opportunities she had as a result of playing volleyball.
“We had several non-members on our teams. After their time on the team, they ended up joining the Church because of the effect of the school and athletics.”
For Cornillez, the loss of BYUH athletics was a little more personal. Growing up in Minnesota, she decided to attend BYUH because she wanted to go to a church school and be around more Polynesians because of her Samoan heritage.
“You never started practice with prayer,” said Cornillez when referring to playing club volleyball. “You struggled with the idea of playing on Sundays or not. And here everything just fits. And I think the most important thing for me was to see I could not only enjoy this sport, but this sport could bless my life and I could bless other people’s lives with volleyball as well.”
Cornillez comes from a strong volleyball family and admitted she would have loved to see her daughters have the opportunity to come have the experience she did, but she trusts the termination of the program is for a purpose.
“I do have faith the decision to end athletics was prophetic and that there is a reason. We may not see a reason right now, but I feel soon we will be able to see the reason. We’ll have to build those connections between the spiritual and athletics within our children’s own lives and individual teams, and hopefully they will be good enough.”
After playing for a couple hours, the alumni and current players munched and mingled over some light refreshments provided by the Athletics Department.
The alumni were honored after the conclusion of the second set during the Lady Seasiders match versus Fresno Pacific University on Wednesday evening.