A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: SAITAUA IOSIA
Feb. 15, 2013
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - Over the past two years, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore volleyball has found out what winning feels like. The span has seen the Hawks register two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles, a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and 52 wins altogether. Throw in a perfect 15-0 record at home and a 23-1 mark in conference and what do you have?
There are many reasons to believe why the team is so successful. It could be coaching, as Head Coach Don Metil has recorded 230 wins with a 106-18 record in conference over 11 seasons. It could be recruiting, where the Hawks have landed players from 13 states and seven different countries on three continents over the past five years. It could also be depth, as the Hawks have had five players named to the All-MEAC team since 2011.
Ultimately, it comes down to the play of the student-athletes. The Hawks have had some ridiculous individual performances to spawn the success, but no effort may have been more important than that of sophomore outside hitter Saitaua Iosia.
Iosia has been on fire since becoming a Hawk. As a freshman, she was one of the top outside hitters in the nation and was named Russell HBCU Female MVP of the Year and MEAC Rookie of the Year. In 2012, she was named COBRA Magazine All-National First Team, MEAC Tournament Most Valuable Performer and was 12th in Division I with 5.11 points per set. The four-time MEAC Player of the Week was tops in the conference in aces per set and third in kills and points per set.
Despite her incredible first two seasons as a Hawk, Iosia has not always been the star player.
"Growing up, I always worked twice as hard as most girls because I wasn't a top player," said Iosia. "I was insecure about my volleyball skills but working harder has made me the kind of athlete that I am today."
Iosia played volleyball at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, Calif. She grew as a player over her four years with the Jackrabbits, and her prep career was highlighted by being named Player of the Year in 2010. It was her effort that propelled LBPHS to the No. 3 ranking in the United States and the top spot in all of California. She played club ball with Long Beach Mizuno Club in Southern California, where the squad earned fifth at the Junior Olympic Championships.
She attributes several things to her growth as an athlete, but her biggest motivation is her parents. She is also very proud of her heritage and her family. Iosia has a bloodline from the Pacific Islands.
"I don't know anyone else who works harder than my parents," said Iosia. "They have sacrificed a lot for my brothers, sisters and I. They deserve it all."
Iosia's strong attachment to her family was pivotal in bringing her to the game of volleyball.
"Growing up, I was always around my two older brothers," said Iosia. "Whatever they did, I wanted to do. I only committed myself into doing something if all of my other family members were doing it too. I did not want to play volleyball the first time I was asked to play. I only played because half of my cousins were on the team. I never would have thought the game would take me this far or mean so much to me."
One would wonder why Iosia would leave her family to come all the way to the Eastern Shore. For Iosia, it was a tough decision, but one she is happy she made.
"Coming from California, I wanted to experience something different," said Iosia. "I talked to [former Hawk and California native] Zoe Bowens little sister, Zana, and she had Zoe contact me with information. The next thing you know, I got a call from the coaches. It was a long process but for the most part, it was worth it. I chose to come to here because I really felt the loyalty from the coaching staff."
It takes more than one player to make a team great, but Iosia has done her share on bringing success to the program. It is her chipper and positive presence that have helped not only her team, but the athletics department as well. The team accomplishments, personal accolades and influence upon others have helped the volleyball program reach the level it is today.
And it is all because she was not afraid to take a risk.
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