Hilo, Hawaii – Once the toast of collegiate volleyball, the University of Hawai’i at Hilo volleyball program will once again try to return to its glorified past but this season under new guidance.
When Sharon Peterson called it quits after 25 seasons, the search brought in Julie Morgan whose career has produced success on the NCAA Division I and junior college levels.
“My philosophy has always been I’m the number one competitor,” Morgan said. “I want to win. If I cannot win, I’m not happy. If I don’t get it done doing it the way I do it, nobody’s going to have to fire me. I’ll give it up. Because I’ll be working as hard I can to have everybody enjoy a winning program.”
Morgan brings that fire to a program that has been treading water.
Following an NCAA Regional appearance in 1997, the Vulcans have had only one winning season. And that was a 16-15 record in 2001.
“My expectations are always to win regardless whether that’s logical or possible,” Morgan said. “I think you always have to have really high goals. Hilo probably wants a winning team but that means winning a lot of ways. I think you can have fun and still be competitive.”
Morgan inherits the bulk of the 2002 squad which finished 8-18 and finished tied for fourth in the six-team Pacific West Conference. Back are Brittany Baum, Megan Denman, Emily Hutchinson, Amy Kato, Leanne Kubisak, Tiffany Ollison, Wila Paiva, Sarah Pilgreen and Cori Sutter.
“I look at their record from last year and they had success,” Morgan said. “They beat some good teams and lost to some weaker ones but I think just with recruiting we should be able to get back to where Hilo is use to.”
Back on the sidelines will be Kawaileleohi’ilawe. A veteran of the Vulcans’ most recent post-season appearances, he enters his eighth year on the sideline.
“He knows how it’s been and what really needs to be done,” Morgan said.
In addition to welcoming back the nine returnees when practice begins on August 10, Morgan will be opening the doors for 19 potential players.
The mix includes 10 Hawaii players and two players from South America.
“In any program you always want to look local first,” Morgan said. “If they can play at that level and they’re committed in the classroom, that’s where you got to go first if you want to build a solid program and have a following.
“There’s nothing better than to have the community look at hometown athletes.””
Since her days of playing volleyball, she notes that the once dominance of Hawai’i’s volleyball talent isn’t enough to win.
“If you look at most of the teams that are winning, they’re combined of a lot of players,” Morgan said. “To be realistic, the whole team isn’t going to be able to come from the island. I’m not opposed to looking anywhere on the mainland. You’ve also seen foreign athletes. I’ve gotten into that in the junior college system.”
I’ll always tap into the players that I’ve had experience with to try to find the athletes that fit UH Hilo.”
Morgan’s resources spans 19 years of head coaching experience – University of Utah (1984-86), Illinois State University (1987-99) and Salt Lake Community College (2000-02) – where she compiled an impressive 415-233 career record.
During her ISU tenure, her team’s won six league titles and made eight post-season appearances. And a key to much of her success, she attributes to community relations and support.
“Looking at and recruiting local kids is not the only thing that’s going
to help Hilo win,” Morgan said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things
but it starts with community. I think the main thing is getting into the
community and reaching out and developing support.
“We want to follow the kids from junior high to high school level and
watch them come through and try to get the best ones that we can.”
One of the newest clauses in the UH Hilo coach’s contract concerns
“Everybody’s got to fundraise because of the outlook of athletics
anyway,” Morgan said. “It’s not just the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
All programs are looking at that right now.”
A graduate of Punahou High School, she’ll be looking at classmates and
mentor’s who have always been very supportive.
“Those are the people I’m coming at first because we’ve always stayed in
touch and they understand the importance of contributing to the kids the
way that people contributed to us in the community and made it available
to us,” Morgan said. “It’s not easy. Everybody wants to be part of a
The first of many fundraisers begins with the Hawaiian Style Classic
t-shirt promotion at KTA Super Stores. Proceeds of the three-week long
promotion, August 6-26, are slated for Morgan’s program. Along with the
support of General Mills, Pepsi, Johnson Brothers, ConAgra Snacks and
Frito Lays, the program also grants the t-shirt wear various coupons and
free admission to the Hawaiian Style Classic, August 29-30, in the UH