Tavana Hungry For A National Title

No. 17 Futi Tavana at the net

Passion and heart cannot be measured on a scale or even with a ruler. Both are hard to find in young athletes, and these helpful traits are sometimes overlooked when looking at the talent and potential of a player.

Kaua’i High School graduate Futi Tavana possesses that rare physical and mental talent, which has made him one of the top college volleyball players in the country. After earning second-team All-America last season, the 6-foot-8-inch BYU junior is back and ready to do some more damage on the Cougar block.

Tavana broke the all-time record for blocks in a single game with 15, helping his team record a new all-time record of 24.5 team blocks the same night.

“Futi is a leader, a phenomenal athlete, and he controls the net for us offensively and defensively,” BYU interim head coach Rob Neilson says. “When Futi is playing great, he demands so much attention that it allows the rest of the team to play at a high level as well. He will be important to our success this year.”

Finishing the 2010 season with a No. 2 final national ranking and a 22-9 record, the BYU men’s volleyball team returns not only Tavana but two all-conference selections, and is ready for another successful campaign in 2011.

For some of you who may know Tavana personally, you know one word describes where his passion and heart come from: family. His parents, Gaugau and Palagi of Saipipi, Savaii Samoa, have taught him and his six brothers and sisters well.

“I would like to be just like my father, who has always been a great example of hard work and dedication,” Tavana says.

His family’s first love is sports, and they try to make it to every game. Even when Tavana and his brother Devin, who plays football at Snow College in Utah, are far away, both Gaugau and Palagi have followed them almost every step of the way.

“We lived in Hawaii for the past 10 years and were following him and his brother at every game in high school, and then they moved here (Utah),” says Tavana’s father. “We missed watching them play, so when Futi got back from his mission we flew out for every home game, but that got expensive. After the year we decided that we would move to Utah to watch him and his brother play. They are more important to us than anything.”

But watching Tavana play was almost not an option after he came back from his mission, which he served from 2006 to 2008.

“I was trying really hard to jump, but I think I got two inches off the ground,” Tavana says. “I was so out of shape I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

His coaches nearly cut him, but instead believed enough in him to move him from outside hitter to middle blocker, where he’s flourished ever since.

After two more seasons at BYU, Tavana will graduate with a degree in business and has aspirations to play professionally for a few years, later to complete an MBA. Eventually, he wants to work in business and use his Spanish and Samoan language skills to give his future family more of an opportunity to have a better life.

In his last two seasons as a Cougar, the Kalaheo native will continue to lead in the middle and look for the team’s fourth national championship.

“Futi is the best,” Neilson says. “The game is still out in front of him, and he is just getting better. We are really excited for him and all the other guys coming back.”

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