Pacific Lutheran sophomore McKenna Ventura, a 2016 Konawaena graduate, is back in the postseason for volleyball, a familiar feeling for her.
During her BIIF days, the 5-foot-8 outside hitter never missed the HHSAA tournament and was part of two state championships.
Last season, the Lutes finished second in the Northwest Conference, behind Whitworth, the former resident powerhouse.
There’s quite a history between the two. In 2006, Linfield won the conference title. Since then either the Lutes or Pirates have pocketed the NWC championship.
PLU captured its seventh NWC title in the last 11 years and will play Trinity University in the first round of the NCAA Division III championships on Friday at Southwestern University’s campus in Texas.
“I’m very excited to compete in the postseason,” said Ventura, a business major with a 3.57 GPA. “I have a great team of girls and coaches. We gel well together both on and off the court, which I feel makes us different from others.
“Both as a player and person, I believe I have become calmer. On the court, I tend to not show as much emotion, so I don’t let mistakes get to me. I have also learned to be very organized and have good time management. Google calendar has become my best friend. I have my whole schedule on it.”
The Lutes (20-4) earned an automatic NCAA bid as the league champion. The conference includes Pacific University, a popular spot for Hawaii kids and home to 2014 Makua Lani graduate Karissa Komo.
Komo, missed her sports senior year at Makua Lani due to ACL surgery because of a soccer injury. Her Boxers played at PLU on Oct. 27. Komo, a senior, finished with 15 digs and an ace for Pacific (17-7), which had its best season on the NCAA level.
Ventura, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, had three kills and two digs in the Lutes’ three-set victory.
For the season, Ventura is averaging 1.14 kills per set and is hitting .161.
“I wasn’t able to play during the preseason because of a shoulder injury,” she said. “I’m currently playing outside again. I feel as though I’m playing with confidence and fearlessness despite who is on the other side of the net.”
The Lutes have won three straight. It’s their 11th NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2014.
If PLU beats Trinity (27-7), the Lutes will play the Colorado College (31-1)/College of New Rochelle (18-10) winner on Saturday. The regional final is set for Sunday.
“It’s surreal to think I’m playing for a possible national title,” Ventura said. “I didn’t really feel the rush of emotion and pride under after the conference season was done. I’m just very excited to be in Texas and grateful my season is extended another weekend.”
Two other former BIIF standouts have reached the postseason but are on a different level in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Kadara Marshall, a 2015 Waiakea graduate, is at No. 4 Western Nebraska Community College, which won its regional championship for the 19th consecutive year.
The Cougars (32-6) play No. 18 New Mexico Military Institute (28-11) on Thursday, Nov. 16 in the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Marshall, a 5-9 sophomore middle blocker, is averaging 1.26 kills per set and is hitting .261.
She holds a 3.8 GPA and is part of Sigma Alpha Pi, a National Society of Leadership and Success organization.
WNCC’s 19-year streak to nationals is the longest active one on the junior college level. The Cougars won national titles in 2007 and 2010.
Kuulei Kabalis, a former Kamehameha standout, played on the 2010 championship squad. She later played at Kansas State.
Kyra Kaloi, who played at Hilo before graduating from Aiea on Oahu, is at No. 20 Monroe Community College (20-9), from the Bronx, N.Y.
In the district championship, she led the Mustangs with 13 kills and hit .375 in a four-set win over Spartanburg to send Monroe to nationals.
Like Marshall, the 5-9 Kaloi is a sophomore and in her final season on the Juco level.
If WNCC and Monroe win their first round matches, they would meet in the quarterfinals.
Concordia junior midfielder Gabbie Ewing, a 2015 Hawaii Prep graduate, and her No. 17 Cavaliers (15-3-1) play Chico State (11-5-2) in the NCAA Division II championships on Friday at La Jolla, Calif.
Last week, Concordia fell 1-0 in double overtime to defending national champion Western Washington in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship.
But the Cavaliers received an at-large bid to the national championships.
In the GNAC championship, Ewing took four shots and earlier in the week was named the conference’s player of the year.