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Three volleyball players named All-Americans

By Dave Girrard


A record-setting season for the volleyball team also netted accolades for three top players.

Jenne Heu-Weller '03, Heather Johnson '04 and April Lee '05 were named NCAA Division III Honorable Mention All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. It is the first time a PLU volleyball player has been named to the national list. All three also made the All-West region team.

“It's an honor to be an All-American but it's not the most important thing,” Heu-Weller said. “When it all comes down to it, it's the relationships that are most important.”

Lee saves the ball from going out of bounds .

Although the team was disappointed not to make its second appearance in the NCAA Division III national tournament, the 2003 season was one of its best. The Lutes finished with a 21-5 overall record – the second best mark for wins in a season and a school record .807 winning percentage. PLU finished second in the Northwest Conference, one game behind Linfield College. The Lutes had a 13-3 conference record and remained in contention for the league title until the final day of the regular season.

For Heu-Weller and Johnson, the All-American honors cap their collegiate careers. Heu-Weller graduated in December with a degree in biology. Johnson will graduate this spring with a degree in communications.

“It's been a good four years,” Heu-Weller said.

To say that Heu-Weller changed the way the game is played at PLU is not an overstatement. In 2000, Heu-Weller's first year at PLU, head coach Kevin Aoki began the season with an offensive scheme that featured two setters sharing equal time. That soon changed, as Aoki retooled the offense to feature Heu-Weller's skills the rest of her college career. She accumulated 3,730 assists in her career, a 10.25 per game average, and set a school record with an 11.26 per game average as a sophomore. She also set a school record this past season with a .302 hitting percentage.

Away from the volleyball court, Heu-Weller has been involved in church missionary work in Liberia for the past few years and has traveled to the country twice as part of the program. The program mainly provides medical assistance, although it also conducts sports camps in volleyball and football. She plans to remain involved with the program. “I want to do something to help,” she said.

Johnson has another year of eligibility remaining but will not use it, deciding to graduate this spring. She came back from a knee injury and full reconstructive surgery to become one of PLU's offensive threats at the net. “Toward the end of this season, I felt pretty close to where I was before the injury,” said Johnson, who finished among PLU's top three in kills the past two seasons. Johnson tallied 435 kills in her college career, including a season-best 294 this year.

After graduating, Johnson hopes to work in public relations for a sports team. She completed an internship with the Hula Bowl in January, and last summer worked for the Tacoma Rainiers in the promotions department.

Despite losing these two players, the volleyball team will not be devoid of star power. PLU's third All-America honorable mention, April Lee, is only a sophomore. She also came back from an injury, a stress fracture, early in the 2002 season. Upon her return, PLU head coach Kevin Aoki put Lee in the libero position – a back-row spot for defensive specialists – and kept her there. This season Lee led the team with 422 digs, a 4.59 per game average, finishing third in the conference. Lee is still undecided about a major, although she would “love to teach and coach.”

 

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© Scene 2004  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2004

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