Waimea grad takes aim at college ball

WAIMEA — Fresh off graduating last month, Waimea High School alumna Alyssa Pigao still has a lot going this summer.

“I’m trying to squeeze in everything I can because I’m really busy,” Pigao said Friday morning at Waimea High.

She’s working at Kauai Chocolate Company in Eleele, the Waimea Theater and will soon begin at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

On top of holding down three jobs over summer break, she will compete in Miss Kauai Filipina set for July 2 and the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

It will be a first for the Menehune alumna, who is doing it in dedication of her grandmother Nemesia Unciano, who passed away in 2010.

“She impacted my life. She would encourage me to do things,” Pigao said. “After she passed away in 2010, I was like, “OK, senior year I’m doing it all for her.”

Pigao was a two-sport athlete for Waimea High — volleyball and basketball. She played three years varsity in both.

“For volleyball, going to states was the highlight of my volleyball career. My sophomore year, we went to states,” Pigao said. “My senior year, being in the championship game was the highlight of the season. It may not have gone the way we wanted it to, but to experience that really brought us together.”

Waimea girls volleyball head coach Chad Delanoza said since her sophomore year, Pigao has “come a long way.”

“She’s has matured in this position, and she has grown a lot,” Delanoza said Friday. “Over time with hard work, which she puts in every day, she became a steady player.”

Come August, she will take off for Southern California to continue with volleyball. Pigao will attend NAIA school Providence Christian College in Pasadena.

Along with playing volleyball for the Sea Beggars, Pigao intends to study elementary education.

“At first I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to follow my mom,” she said. “But then ever since seventh grade, I’ve been teaching at church every Sunday about the Gospel. I’m trying to make it so the kids understand it. … And I coach volleyball and basketball, and I work kids at the base. It’s just like, ‘This is what I want to do, and this is what I want to be when I grow up.’”

The opportunity came from participating, along with others from Kauai, in a showcase — Unsigned Senior Night — in Las Vegas back in February.

“He (Providence Christian College women’s volleyball head coach Chris Chown) contacted me, maybe, two weeks after the showcase saying that he needed a setter,” Pigao said. “I jumped when I had the chance.”

Delazona, too, was in Las Vegas for the showcase.

“A lot of Mainland coaches like Hawaii kids,” the Menehune coach said. “I’m not surprised a lot of Hawaii kids, not just here but throughout the state, have gotten good scholarships to continue to play ball at the next level. … It’s one of those ‘Being at the right place and the right time’ things and trusting what you have done up to this point.”

Chown was in attendance at that Las Vegas showcase. He said what he liked about Pigao was her leadership skills and positive energy.

“Given that she’s a setter, her attitude suits that position very well — in that she’s quite driven but also is pretty good at staying positive and motivating her teammates,” Chown said in a phone interview Friday.

“I also liked, if we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, I do like how she kind of masks her sets,” he continued. “She’s pretty good at setting to different spots on the court from the same base position, which is often something that has to be developed a lot more as players get older and get more experience. But she’s does a very good job with that already.”

She visited the Providence Christian campus during spring break, and signed her letter of intent in April.

“It was surreal for me,” Pigao said. “Before, I never thought I would be able to play college ball. So, it’s like a dream come true for me. Not a lot of kids from Waimea get the chance to go off and play at college in general. For me, it was a big deal.”

Pigao said she chose the Pasadena school because, along with furthering her education and her volleyball career, she wanted to continue to grow in her faith.

“It’s a Christian college. I get to study more about my religion, and I get to play four years of volleyball,” she said.

In addition, what solidified her decision was when she visited the school and saw how similar it was to home.

“It’s like Waimea. That’s what it felt like to me,” she said. “It felt like I can make this place my home.”

As for what’s done on the court, Delanoza said work ethic will bode well for Pigao at the next level.

“She’s direct and knows what she wants,” he said. “She has a great work ethic. She tries, sometimes, too hard and tries to overdo everything. But when she sits back and takes a look at what she’s accomplished, I think she realizes that she’s got the talent and the skills at the next level.”

Providence Christian College plays in the California Pacific Conference and had its inaugural women’s volleyball season last year, in which the Sea Beggars were 6-22 overall.

“We definitely hung in there with a young and undersized, undermanned team,” Chown said. “It was a promising first year, but I’m excited about making some big strides forward this next year with a good class coming in.”

Chown said Pigao will compete for playing time with a large incoming class.

“I expect from Alyssa what I expect from everybody else — to be working really hard this summer with their workouts, and to come into the fall in good shape and ready to work hard, improve and find where they can be most effective and helpful for our team being successful,” he continued.

Until she flies over in August, for now she’s taking in as much of her home island as much as possible. She will miss her family and the food.

“It won’t be the same local grinds when I go up there,” she said. “For family, they’re a big part of my life. We’ve been through so much. Not being able to have them with me is going to be super hard.”

Pigao looks forward to what lies ahead of her in Pasadena.

“No one is going to know me there,” she said. “I get to invent this new self. I get to change and I get to grow. I’m looking forward to that.”

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Are you a recent high school grad and about to play college ball? Come talk story with us! Nick Celario can be reached at ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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