College Notebook: Doerfler, Sea Warriors peaking toward bid to NCAA-II West Regional

Prairie High grad making big impact at Hawai’i Pacific

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Reporter

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Haley Doerfler found the right fit in her college choice.

The fact that it’s in paradise does not hurt.

“Oh, yeah — it’s hard,” the Hawai’i Pacific University freshman said of the Honolulu school. “It’s a hard life. I’m taking one for the team.”

But seriously, the Prairie High School graduate loves her circumstances on the volleyball court as much as the academic and scenic setting.

Doerfler joined a steadily improving program that this season is threatening to advance to the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament for the first time in six years. A 6-foot-1 middle blocker, Doerfler leads the team in blocks and is third in kills. As a true freshman, she has started every match and played in every set.

Not a bad start.

“I knew that if I worked my hardest, I would be able to make some sort of impact,” she said. “I didn’t know how much of an impact I’d be making, but it’s been a blast. I’ve loved being able to be part of this team and be such a big contributor.”

Doerfler put down 17 kills with a .448 attack percentage in the Sea Warriors’ 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 25-15 win Oct. 25 at Dixie State College of Utah.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “My timing has gotten better and better with my setters throughout the year, so that’s been a lot of fun to see and experience that development with them at a high level — a relatively high college level.”

Doerfler said she likes the responsibility of her position to thwart the opponent’s attack to set up her own team’s opportunities to score, and she “really enjoys” running quick offense — when the hitter hits the ball as the set is going up.

“My favorite part of playing middle is the challenge that comes with it,” she said, explaining it as “trying to read the other setter and beat her and beat her hitters on the other side of the net by putting up a solid block, because that gives us the best chance possible of turning that point around and getting a kill for ourselves.”

The Sea Warriors improved to 14-8, third in the Pacific West Conference at 9-4, with a three-set Halloween sweep of PacWest foe Dominican. HPU has three matches remaining, all on the team’s home court at St. Andrew’s Priory: Thursday and Saturday against Academy of Art and Nov. 12 against rival Brigham Young-Hawai’i.

The location of BYU-Hawai’i in Laie on the North Shore, across the island of O’ahu from Honolulu, helps make the Seasiders HPU’s natural rivals.

The champions of the PacWest, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and California Collegiate Athletic Association advance to the West Regional at the site of the region’s top-ranked team on Nov. 17-20, plus the five highest-ranked remaining teams. With no conference tournament, the PacWest champion is determined by regular season standings. The Sea Warriors are currently ranked No. 6.

BYU-Hawai’i leads the PacWest standings at 10-1 and is No. 2 in the region. HPU is third, behind No. 10 Grand Canyon (10-4).

“That’s huge for us,” Doerfler said of the team closing in on its first regional berth since 2005. “I’m thrilled.”

HPU players do not work just on indoor court volleyball. Being in Hawai’i, the HPU program also includes beach volleyball play during the spring and a specific “beach coach” position.

“We spend a lot of time playing beach,” Doerfler said. “That’s big here, too, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Remember, it’s a hard life.

Thomas All-WCC

Gonzaga sophomore Emily Thomas finished ninth at the West Coast Conference cross country championships in Belmont, Calif., to earn All-WCC recognition. Thomas was the team’s first runner as the Bulldogs placed sixth.

The Camas High School graduate ran the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) course in 21 minutes, 15 seconds. She will run at the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 12 at Stanford.

Blackford 15th as Weber wins Big Sky

Weber State sophomore Kayla Blackford placed 15th at the Big Sky Conference cross country championships Saturday in Pocatello, Idaho, helping the Wildcats to the conference championship.

The Camas High School graduate finished the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 18 minutes, 40.27 seconds as the Wildcats’ fifth runner.

Suggestions for College Notebook? Contact Kurt Zimmer at 360-735-4563 or by e-mail at kurt.zimmer@columbian.com