Digging her new NCAA D-III world, Hilo High alum Chun remains cool customer at Alfred

  • Alfred University photo Hilo High alum Jamie Chun already has one conference freshman of the week award under her belt at Alfred University, an NCAA Division III school in Upstate New York.

Changes in latitude may well bring about changes in attitude, but not aptitude for Alfred University freshman Jamie Chun.

The only essentials the 2020 Hilo High graduate needed to handle the rugged territory – on and off the volleyball court – in Upstate New York were patience, some reassuring coaching words from back home and, of course, a big puffer jacket.

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“I don’t think I have ever been in weather below 40-degree Fahrenheit before (I got here),” Chun said in an email to the Tribune-Herald. “I used to get cold around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit back home. (Now) 50-70 is warm for me. I think that the snow was the best thing about the cold.”

Acclimating to winter came first. Her adjustment to NCAA Division III volleyball was delayed when the Saxons’ fall season was suspended because of coronavirus concerns. Chun’s club season with Piopio was canceled during the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, so she spent a fair amount of time away from volleyball.

“I admit I was very bad at keeping up with workouts,” she said.

It hasn’t shown.

Chun, a 5-foot-2 defensive specialist/libero, was named the Empire 8 Women’s Volleyball Rookie of the Week on March 30 after posting double-digit digs in all three of Alfred’s matches. Wearing a mask amid empty stands, she compiled a career-high 23 against Nazareth College. Chun is second on the Saxons (3-4, 2-3 Empire 8) in digs and aces. In Alfred’s most recent match Saturday, she tallied nine digs and two aces in a 25-18, 25-16, 25-23 win against Russell Sage College in Albany.

“It is very different than playing in the BIIF to NCAA D-III,” Chun said. “My coaches and some of the girls have definitely played a big part in helping me navigate my way through my first season. I even texted (Piopio) coach Laura Thompson about the system, and she helped me a little there, too. I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well, and my team has been playing pretty well, too.”

While this is a makeshift spring season, the Saxons will have a chance to compete for a championship in the conference tournament later this month.

“There is still a lot for us to improve on individually and as a team,” she said. “I think we have the potential to make some history for our program this season, it’s just a matter of having that mindset and playing like we want to win.”

When she was looking for a college as a Vikings senior, Chun was a winner on the scholarship front, receiving a presidential scholarship ($20,000), along with a trustee grant ($4,000). She’s majoring in biology with plans to go to medical school and becoming a pathologist.

Chun doesn’t just possess aptitude, but perspective as well.

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“I am very lucky to be able to play volleyball during this time,” she said. “I know a lot of people just want to get back out on the court (back home), especially all the seniors, and it sucks that a lot of people are unable to do that.

“It’s hard to tell what is going to happen during these times, so just being able to get on the court and play is very cool to me.”