By Jessica Molinengo
Standing at 6-foot-8, middle blocker Futi Tavana is a big guy, and now both the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the MPSF recognize he?s a big deal, too.
The redshirt freshman was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men?s National Player of the Week and MPSF Molten Player of the Week after leading the No.5 Cougars to back-to-back five-game wins over now-No.6 Long Beach State.
Known to some fans as ?Number 17: the Samoan Dream? (to which his personal fan club answered with a poster that reads, ?Futi is Tongan?), Tavana was surprised when he discovered he had received the honors.
?I was getting [text messages] from coaches and players congratulating me, and I didn?t get what they were talking about until later when I found out exactly what the awards were,? Tavana said.
Securing his first career double-double, Tavana hit .500 with 11 kills and 11 blocks against Long Beach State Friday. He started the Cougars? first set with three kills and a block to contribute four of BYU?s first five points against LBSU. With BYU down 2-1, Tavana was clutch from the line as he recorded a service ace to give the Cougars an 8-5 early lead in the fourth set. He then tied it up at 21-21 with a kill. In the final set, Tavana put up a solo block to push BYU to win the match.
In the Cougars? second match against Long Beach State Saturday, Tavana turned out an even stronger performance, clinching his second double-double with 14 kills and 13 blocks. Tavana?s 13 blocks matched the current BYU record high, forcing Scott Bunker?s 13 blocks against No.1 Hawaii on April 14, 2001 to move over and share the top spot.
Three of Tavana?s 13 blocks were against reigning AVCA National Player of the Week Dean Bittner, who knocked down 42 kills against the Cougars. BYU trailed 9-5 in the fifth set, when Tavana single-handedly cut the 49ers? lead to one point with three kills and two blocks.
Tavana hit .571 and logged an average of 2.5 kills, 2.4 blocks and 3.85 points per game this week.
BYU head coach Shawn Patchell said the award not only spotlights Tavana?s successes but also reflects the Cougars? improvement.
?It?s a team award,? Patchell said. ?We passed well enough to get the ball to Futi. Whenever a team can win, it gives individual players the opportunity to get awards.?
This marks the first time Tavana has received either honor. He is the 18th Cougar to earn the national award. Yosleyder Cala was the last Cougar to earn the award in April 2007, and Russell Holmes received the MPSF weekly honor in February 2008.