Men's Basketball Q&A: Jade' Smith

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Jade' Smith is a freshman on the Pepperdine men's basketball team. He tells us what he will bring to the team, how he feels about being at Pepperdine and what he thinks about his new team:

Jade'  Smith

Q: How have your first couple months on campus been?

A: My first couple of months of school have been really nice. I am really enjoying college. The Pepperdine community is very welcoming as well with the basketball team. I love the guys. The older guys have been helping me get through classes. They have been motivating me to stay on top of schoolwork, as well as finding time to get in the gym. 

Q: How are you and the whole freshman group fitting in?

A: Colbey, Trae, and I have been able to fit in very well with the team. The team has been very welcoming, which has made it easy for us to fit right in with what Coach Wilson has going.

Q: What are you expecting to get out of this season? What are you expecting of yourself this season and in the future?

A: I'm expecting this season to be a good season because we have the talent to be a great team. As an individual this season I'm expecting to help my team in any way possible whether that's with scoring, getting a stop, and or just bringing energy. For my future my number one goal is to play professional basketball.

Q: A lot of great guards have come from Oakland and your high school. Are you trying to be next in line or live up to those expectations?

A: Of course I want to be known as one of the great guards to come out of Oakland. I definitely feel like I can be next in line. I just have to grind because I know that every player in the league was not just given anything, they worked for it all.

Q: Is there any bond between you and Amadi since you are both from the same area?

A: Amadi is my guy! That's like family to me. He's been watching me play since I was in eighth grade. I'm close to his little brother, we played on the same AAU team. But having Amadi at Pepp, and being able to play alongside him, is a great opportunity for me, because I can learn from him.

Q: Describe your game. What are your strengths and what are you looking to improve?

A: I'm a high-energy guy that can run an offense. I can get stops on the defensive end and push the ball in transition. I can facilitate the ball well and get others involved. I'm looking to improve my jump shot. I want to become consistent.

Q: What upperclassmen on the team do you look up to?

A: I look up to all the upperclassman guys because they all have more experience than I do. They all know more than I do because they've played on this level longer than I have. I have nothing but respect and take in all advice from my upperclassmen. 

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because I fell in love with the campus and of course the view! But the coaching staff is unbelievable. They're a group of genuine guys who want the best for you. I know I can sit down with any coach and talk about something personal outside of basketball. When I came on my visit the team was very welcoming to my family and myself and I just felt like this is best place for me for basketball and outside of basketball.

Women's Volleyball Q&A: Hana Lishman

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Sophomore libero Hana Lishman talks about how she got into volleyball as well as her experience going from an attacking to a defensive position:

Hana  Lishman

Q: What are your goals now and for the rest of your career?

A: For this season, I think we just want to finish strong and right now we're definitely going up. This has been a good learning season for us. We're definitely taking those lessons and trying to improve a lot. For the next two years, I would say, just to continue with this growth of just being better and improving and helping my teammates out. Just growing in the sport mentally and physically and just being the best I can for my team and with my team.

Q: How are you feeling about the new additions to the team this year?

A: We had four incoming freshmen and they have all been great additions to the team. They fit very well with us as a whole. Not as many new people because we were a really young team last year and this year we brought back everyone, which was great, because that strong bond was already there. We had a junior transfer named Blossom Sato come in along with other freshmen and even though they were new to the team, they fit really well and everything has been really smooth.

Q: You are from Hawai'i. What would you say has been different about the transition from Hawai'i to Malibu?

A: The nicest change has been the view. Where I live in Hawaii the beach is like 30 seconds from my house but this view is just amazing. Having the beach right there has been amazing because it's just like home. It's only one flight out to get home and my coach is from Hawai'I, which is great, because we have our own inside jokes and we talk about Hawai'i a lot, which is always nice. So the transition really wasn't too bad. The people here have been really nice and kind and I love how a lot of my teammates enjoy the fact that I'm Hawaiian. They're always asking me how to say different things in Hawaiian and I really love it. In my freshman year we went to Hawai'i for one of our tournaments and everyone really embraced the culture, enjoying the food and everything, so they all made the transition really easy.

Q: Your real first name is Dallas. Why do you more commonly go by Hana?

A: Well, Hana actually comes from my middle name, Kamehanaokala, which means warmth of the sun in Hawaiian. My parents named me Dallas because my dad is a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys even though we have no connection to Dallas, Texas, whatsoever. My dad always wanted to name one of his sons Dallas. Before I was born, my parents thought I was going to be a boy and when they found out that I was a girl, my mom said she didn't want more kids so they just named me Dallas. Growing up, I've gotten used to being called Hana because nobody really called me Dallas. Sometimes people do call me Dallas and I just take a little more time to respond because I'm not used to it, but as I've gotten older I've started liking it a lot more. As for why I'm called Hana, like I mentioned, it comes from my middle name, which was really hard to pronounce so we just cut it short to Hana.

Q: You were an outside hitter in high school and now you're a libero. How have you handled the change of going from an attacking position to a defensive position?

A: In Hawai'i I'm actually considered tall, which is funny, because I don't really think I'm that tall. I've always been in an outside position for club volleyball and high school and with it comes a lot of passing like defense and serve receive so I had a lot of training with those libero skills. So the transition wasn't hard because I already had a lot of it under my belt. But the transition did put me out of my comfort zone in terms of talking on the court. I was always a silent player but in this position I have to talk a lot. I knew I needed to, but it was just hard stepping out of my shell. I still wouldn't say it's easy, but my coaches and teammates were super encouraging and they really helped push that door open so it's been great.

Q: How did you get into volleyball?

A: I started volleyball when I was 6 or 7 years old. My parents were always really into sports and they wanted me and my siblings to get into sports at a young age. They signed us up for a lot of different sports and I tried a few but I only stuck with volleyball and soccer. At one point, I actually quit volleyball and just played soccer for a bit until I started to miss playing volleyball and so I went back to playing both. After a point my parents wanted me to stick with just one because they wanted me to focus on my school and so I picked volleyball. My parents were my coaches for a while and then I moved onto club. I started off playing with my family friends so it was nice growing with people I knew and was comfortable with so we could all help each other out, learning more about the game, developing my skills and positions and things like that. It's taught me so many values, which don't just help me on the court, but off the court as well and just generally it's really helped me grow as a person.

Q: How has your transition from freshman to sophomore been?

A: Honestly, I do feel a lot more mature and confident on the court. Being a freshman on the court, there's a lot of pressure and stress and so my coaches and teammates really helped me feel confident about myself and trust myself when I'm out there. As I said before, I used to be a shy player but they really helped me crack that shell and that's why I've felt so much better this year. When I came back, I knew what I needed to do and I knew how to do it. Also after having gone through it all, I've wanted to help the freshmen coming in and give them tips and advice on how to grow. I want to be able to help them the way my teammates helped me because I understand how stressful it can be. I'd say more than my skills, my mentality switched and definitely in a good way.

Women's Swimming Q&A: Kayla Smith

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Kayla Smith, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's swim and dive team, tells us why she chose to transfer to Pepperdine and why she feels the swim and dive team is so special:

Kayla  Smith

Q: Why did you choose to transfer to Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because it is close to home and I really missed being at a Christian school. I also wanted to be more challenged with my education and when I visited Pepperdine in high school, I loved the atmosphere.

Q: How does your last school, Lynn University, compare to Pepperdine?

A: I had one of the most memorable and fun years of life living in South Florida and attending Lynn University. I made friends that will last a lifetime and I learned how to live on my own, being all the way across the country, but it wasn't the perfect fit for me. I wanted to look back at my college years being challenged by hard curriculum and loving swim. Due to this, I made the decision to come to Pepperdine and I love it here.

Q: How has your first semester been going?

A: My first semester at Pepperdine has been extremely challenging, I have never had so much homework, or been in a lecture hall where my professor doesn't know me. It's definitely different and challenging, but I knew what I signed myself up for when deciding to transfer. Swimming has been amazing this first semester at Pepperdine, I love the team and the coaches. I have found my passion for swimming again and love going to practice and training with my teammates who push me. The sets are challenging, but fun at the same time. The girls are always cheering for each other and staying hyped. The team atmosphere is the best I've ever experienced.

Q: How have you connected with the girls on your team so far?

A: I have connected with the girls incredibly. I feel like they are my all my sisters. Considering it is a huge team of 40 girls, I feel like I genuinely know each and every one of them and can go to them for anything! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity of training and being a part of this team.

Q: How are the coaching styles different at Lynn versus at Pepperdine?

A: At Lynn, the coaching style was distance workouts with quality, with hard race sets four times a week. Lynn was very different in the sense that we never did drills or stretching. At Pepperdine, the coaches care a lot about the team camaraderie and each and every person as an individual. School is important to the coaches here at Pepperdine and acknowledge swimming comes second. The coaches know when to push us but also balance that with when we need recovery.

Q: What are your personal goals for this season?

A: My personal goal for this season is to break a minute in the 100 butterfly and go best times in my events at conference. Although I want to swim fast, I also want to have a blast!

Q: A3 is a big meet and is coming up next week. How are you feeling about it?

A: Next week for A3 I am feeling confident and excited to suit up with a tech suit and race. It's been a while since I've suited up, since February actually. I am anxious to see what I can do with the change in training/coaching.

Q: What can we expect from the swim and dive team for the rest of the season?

A: You can expect the best results from the swim team this year. Everybody is really working hard not only in the pool, but also in the weight room. I've been hearing all the girls say how the team is better than it ever has been and we can't wait to see what we can do!

Morgan Bedford, a junior on Pepperdine's cross country and track teams, is very active here on campus. She explains the activities she is involved in and how those have impacted her:

Morgan  Bedford

Q: Where did you study abroad last year?

A: I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the full academic year.

Q: How has the transition back to Pepperdine from abroad been?

A: Initially the transition was very easy. It felt very normal to be back. I was driving along PCH the very first day I arrived back in Malibu and it felt like I had never left. As the days go by, it gets a little bit easier, but there are things that pop up, like thinking about what I was doing a year ago today. Those little things make it harder, but because there was a really strong house community in Lausanne, it has been an easy transition. I run into people I studied abroad with every day, so that has really helped.

Q: What was your favorite memory from abroad?

A: A lot of my favorite memories happened with the people in the house. They were moments that were unplanned and unexpected. There was one afternoon when a friend and I had just finished lunch and we decided to go to Evian, which is a little French town across the lake. There was another moment when my friend and I were walking down to the lake and we had to pass by the train station. We thought about how crazy it was that we could just hop on a train and go to Italy and we decided right then to go to Italy. Those moments of being truly present were the best.

Q: The last time you were interviewed for this blog, you talked about your experience with Model UN. Are you still participating in that, and if so, what are you doing with it?

A: This year I am the vice president for Model UN. There are a lot of different odd jobs that I get to do. The first is supporting the president and the director of education with running and preparing for the meetings. I help with the position papers the team will have to write before conference and help prep for the resolution papers that we will write during the conference. Recently I have started Model UN Mondays with Morgan, which is a time when any of the members of the team can come by to get help or ask questions.

Q: You were recently invited to attend the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations' Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington, D.C. Tell me a little about what that event was and your experience there.

A: The conference was for fellows of the Council, students, military members and for other government officials. One of my mom's colleagues invited me to attend because he knew it was something I was interested in. During the conference I learned a lot and it helped solidify future interests in working in the Middle East. It was interesting to hear all the former ambassadors, Saudi princes, diplomats and others come and speak on their experience and what students can do if the Middle East is of interest to them. It was challenging to understand all the different viewpoints because they are all very deeply rooted in tribal relations, and as things happen, the situation changes. It was also a great way to meet people and network.

Q: You also have done an internship with Senator Tim Kaine. Is working in politics something that you are interested in doing once you have graduated?

A: Very much so. From working and learning about politics I have become more interested in policy and writing the policies that are being implemented. If I could do anything, I would probably want to reestablish diplomatic ties with countries that we currently don't have ties with, such as Iran or North Korea. I think that would be really interesting because the relationships that we have with countries are really important despite our disagreements. I would love to be a part of the negotiation process and formally write the treaties to establish the diplomatic relations.

Q: What are your goals for this year's track and cross country seasons?

A: I think coming back from abroad, my goals are to be a resource to the younger members on the team. I think I have a unique position. I have never run cross country before, and a lot of them have, so they are teaching me about the sport. And, I can be a resource for them for academics, spiritual life or studying abroad. The other goal has been to continue to challenge myself and see what it is like to run cross country. So far it has been very challenging, so I have a greater respect for my teammates.

Q: How are you managing all that you do and run cross country and track?

A: I cannot do it on my own. I think that when I have tried to do all of these things on my own it is just a complete mess. Having a good support system and a strong faith and being able to be open about my struggles with balancing everything has been very helpful. Being vulnerable to the fact that I am human and I cannot do everything without my support system have helped me continue going. My team and my coaches are a huge part of my support system. My coaches have done everything they possibly can to support me on and off the track, which is really cool to see in a Division I school.

Women's Swim/Dive Q&A: Lauren Stigers

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Lauren Stigers, a senior diver and breaststroker on the women's swim and dive team, tells us about how the team has grown in her time here and what she hopes for the rest of the season:

Lauren  Stigers

Q: How do you feel the season has been going so far?

A: I think the season is off to a great start! We've had two meets at home, which I've noticed helped the new girls form with our team. Our new recruits bring a lot of character and are really talented so I think it's going to be a great season!

Q: You do swimming and diving. What's it like balancing the two?

A: It's definitely a unique perspective. A lot of people just think about swimming and forget that we have divers too, so doing both is challenging but rewarding, because I've really been able to bring both the divers and the swimmers together. Swimming and diving have very different mentalities but both are really crucial to the success of the team.

Q: As a senior, how do you think the team has progressed in your time here?

A: I've seen such great improvements. First, we started off with 18 girls on the team my freshman year and we've grown to have over 35 girls now. We've also improved a lot in the weight room and received a lot of fast girls throughout my time here which have helped the team mature as a whole.

Q: Congrats on getting into Kentucky's pharmacy school. How do you feel Pepperdine has prepared you for this next step in your life?

A: Thank you! Pepperdine has done a lot for me but the biggest thing is the fact that I am an athlete. I talked a lot about being on the swim and dive team in my interviews and applications because it's really shaped the person I am today by teaching me about leadership and working well with my team.

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: Usually it would be to just get best times and personal bests, and although I still want to do well this season, I really just want to focus on making the most out of my time here and making memories.

Q: What can we expect from the swim and dive team during the rest of the season?

A: Definitely an improvement in our times and scores at our conference meet. We're hoping to place within the top three this year at conference as well. At our first meet of the season against San Diego State, although we didn't win, we did really well so I think the girls are really stepping up to the plate and it's exciting!

Q: What are your hopes for the team after you graduate?

A: I hope that we can hone in on getting more really good quality girls in the coming years and help all the returning girls find their specific place on the team. The team has come a really long way these past few years but I just hope we continue to improve.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with Pepperdine swimming and diving thus far?

A: I have two. The first is our meet that we have at Cal Poly every year. It's a short dual meet but we always make a good trip out of it by stopping in Morro Bay and Solvang. It's always a great time for the girls to bond. The other one is our conference meet. Every year it's really amazing to see all the girls come together and cheer for one another as we seek to achieve greatness.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Matthew Atewe

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Matthew Atewe is a graduate transfer on the men's basketball team. He talks about how his experiences playing Division I basketball have helped him take on the role of a leader at Pepperdine:

Matthew  Atewe

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I think Pepperdine was just the best fit for me. I was able to trust the coaches and the coaching staff and I really liked the players. Apart from basketball, just having the opportunity to get a degree in one year from a school like Pepperdine was a pretty big deal for me.

Q: How has Pepperdine been different from Washington? How have you been liking it?

A: The one major difference that I've felt has been the weather. In Malibu, it's sunny every day and that's really nice. This summer, I was here for the majority of August just with the coaching staff and they put a very big emphasis on player development. The whole summer I was able to get in the gym with some of the coaching staff and other guys on the team and develop a camaraderie so we could get better as a team. I think just being around the basketball team has been amazing and I've really loved it.

Q: You have had previous experience playing college ball. How do you feel that experience has been helping you here at Pepperdine?

A: Having been in college for four years, I know how hard you need to practice. I think I can relate to the younger guys and others who are coming in who may not know how it works yet. Just having that experience allows me to be kind of like a leader in that way and help those who are struggling or aren't getting it. For the ones who are, I can just give them advice on things I did and didn't do to help them do better.

Q: How are you feeling about the team and the players this season?

A: I believe as a team we can win a lot this season. I love the excitement we have within the team and the enthusiasm as a whole. Just being successful and making it to postseason is a very big goal of ours and that's what were focused on. Just being able to win and win a lot at a high level.

Q: How has training been so far?

A: Practice has been great. It's been very competitive, which is something you always want. Also, it's been really lively and the guys who just came in have all been super enthusiastic so I've really been loving it so far.

Q: Being one of the older guys, you found yourself to be in a kind of leadership role. How has that been?

A: I think this ties in with the experience aspect but, again, having gone through a lot already has just helped me know what I can do to help the guys who are going through similar things now, including injuries and stuff like that. So basically just showing the guys coming in how to work and how to be a good basketball player and how to be deal with being a college athlete.

Q: Describe your game.

A: I'm able to rebound, score in the post and also just be an anchor defensively. Also being able to block shots and just being all over the place defensively.

Q: Are you excited about your first game?

A: As a team, we're all super excited. Our first game is November 10th against Oklahoma State. All summer and fall we've just been playing against each other so we're definitely ready to go against a different group and hopefully get our first win of the season.

Men's Water Polo Q&A: Zack Rhodes

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Zack Rhodes is a senior goalkeeper for Pepperdine's water polo team. He recently received GCC Player of the Week honors. He explains what it means to receive that and how his senior season is making him feel:

Zack  Rhodes

Q: After your huge 17-save game against Long Beach State you were named GCC Player of the Week. What does getting this honor mean to you?

A: I was happy to receive it, it means a lot to me. But I was happier with how well our team was able to work so well together and stay on top of our roles. When everyone else does their part it makes getting saves and being able to do my job much easier. Without my team I wouldn't have gotten this. It is more of a representation of the entire team's work and proves what we can do at our full potential.

Q: Leading into the GCC Tournament, you are the reigning MVP and you guys are the reigning champs. Does that put pressure or anything on you guys to perform?

A: I do feel like there are certain expectations and we are held to a little higher standard having won it last year. It does put more pressure on us, but better than that, it drives us even more to repeat. For me I go into every tournament with the mindset of playing the best that I can and do everything I can. I am not focused on outside awards like MVP, I just want to be my best and help my team win.

Q: Who would you say your biggest competition is in the GCC Tournament?

A: The University of Pacific, who did get the better of us recently. But I feel like we were making little mistakes and if we fix that we will be okay.

Q: What happens if you win the GCC Tournament?

A: If we win the tournament we are then in line to compete for the NCAA title. But our focus right now is the GCC Tournament and we have to make it through that. Then we can start planning for NCAA Tournament.

Q: Being a senior what can you take away from your four years of water polo at Pepperdine?

A: That's a tough question. I feel like I have learned so much from water polo and it has been a tremendous growing experience. I have learned so many things in the pool that can be translated into real life. The biggest lesson is probably learning how important communication is. It's a necessity to stay on top of everything and communicate since the second you lose that communication you never really know what is going to happen. Another big thing I learned is effort. That you only get out as much as you put in. So if we all put in 100 percent, even if we lose, we can feel good about ourselves knowing we gave it our all.

Q: How does water polo and school work together?

A: Water polo is a huge help with time management, especially with all my homework. It has taught me how to work better in groups and that I always need to know my role. Whether it is in the pool or in a real life situation, once I learned what my role is it has made everything a lot easier.

Q: What does breaking Pepperdine's all-time goalie saves record mean to you?

A: I am really excited that I got that. It has always been one of my goals. Being a goalie you don't get much of a shot at scoring so it was nice to have something to strive for. I really wanted to leave my mark here and I believe I have by breaking that record and now setting it as high as I can make it. That I hope will in turn motivate new freshmen and new goalies to try and break my record and give them something to push for the same way it did for me.

Q: Who has had a big impact on you during your college career and throughout your life?

A: There have been so many people that have come into my life and helped me a lot. Merrill (Moses), my coach, has been very helpful during my career here. He has helped me stay focused and worked with me even when times are rough. It really helps because he can relate to me and he has very high expectations for me, which makes me want to keep pushing everyday. But the person who has influenced me the most is definitely my mom. She has been there for my entire career and been able to push me in the right direction. I can always talk to her and she always helps me get back on track. She is my role model. I just want to try and be a good person and do everything to the best of my ability like I know my mom would. She works hard for my brother and I and she has taught me that there is a lot you can get the harder you work.

Q: What is your favorite memory from college?

A: Winning GCCs was really a great time. Having every piece come together and winning a conference championship made us all feel so accomplished. Then going home after a long hard season knowing that our hard work had paid off. Being a part of that was a phenomenal experience, I couldn't have asked for more. Hopefully we have more experiences like that this year.

Q: How are you feeling about nearing the end of your collegiate career?

A: I have a bunch of mixed feelings. I am sad that it is ending but I have had probably one of the best experiences I could have ever asked for here at Pepperdine. I loved the team and the atmosphere. As bad as it sounds I am going to miss having to wake up at 6 a.m. to get to practice. The people I have met on the team have become my closest friends and basically my brothers. The hardest part will be not seeing everyone every day and having that three-hour stress reliever in the pool all working toward the same goal. I am happy that it did happen. I have learned so much and been so fortunate to be an athlete here at Pepperdine. The discipline I have learned and the ups and downs I have been through, it has all been a great way to learn and an even better foundation for life. Water polo and all its lessons have been a very important part of my journey through Pepperdine.

Men's Golf Q&A: Clay Feagler

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Clay Feagler is a sophomore for the Pepperdine's men's golf team and last week he achieved an amazing feat, getting two holes-in-one on back-to-back days at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. He tells us about this incredible experience:

Clay  Feagler

Q: At your recent tournament you had two holes-in-one. How was that whole experience?

A: This tournament was different for us because we usually don't get to play with our teammates but this one we did get to. That added with each of my holes-in-one was amazing. Since it was my team with me everyone got hyped and started giving high-fives and dogpiling me. It still hasn't sunk in yet that I actually did that.

Q: Take me through your first hole-in-one (during Monday's first round). What did it feel like?

A: It was in the first round, the third hole of the day, a 195-yarder. My coach and I were talking about where to hit it. Then I hit the shot and it was right at the pin so I didn't know if it was going to get there or not. It hit the green, kicked left, then fed right straight into the hole. I was just like, "Whoa." I didn't know what to think but I threw my club up in the air then my teammates rushed and started high-fiving me. It was so cool.

Q: How about the second hole in one (during Tuesday's third round). Was there anything different?

A: This one was during the final round on my fourth hole of the day. I was the first one to hit on the tee so I had no idea what club to hit or how to hit it. So my coach and I decided it was best to go with a 7-iron. It was 179 yards. I hit the shot and this time it was looking really good, it felt more pure than the first one. It hit right on the green and rolled into the hole. It was cool this time because the Michigan coach and team were there so they all congratulated me along with my teammates getting hyped. It was so cool to be there with my team since we are basically brothers and to make a hole-in-one, let alone two, which is just unspeakable.

Q: How many other holes-in-one have you made?

A: I got one when I was 10, which was so long ago that the golf course I got it on doesn't even exist anymore. My dad has made three, so after I got my first one of the tournament he texted me saying, "You are still one behind me." So when I made the next one he said, "Wow, we are tied now." I've had a couple close calls but could never even imagine getting two at one tournament.

Q: How was the rest of your tournament?

A: I ended shooting 5-over-par with a 76 (in the first round), which isn't great. Through the rest of the round I was still a little caught off-guard after making a hole-in-one since I was still shocked. It almost made it harder to keep playing since I had all this energy and my heart was still racing from sinking it that stayed with me through the rest of that round. The second round I shot a 67 and I felt like I bounced back. Then in the final round I had experience on the course from the other rounds so I knew how to play it but the conditions were pretty poor. But I did end up making the other hole-in-one that day so that was really cool.

Q: What were the practices like leading up to this? Was there anything special?

A: It was a just some pretty regular practices leading up. It was just the normal hitting with certain clubs and hitting different flights. We prepared ourselves for what can happen in a competitive atmosphere.

Q: Overall how would you say the tournament went for your team?

A: We finished sixth. We haven't really been playing up to what we usually play to. But last year was pretty similar and we ended up finding it in the spring and making it to the NCAA Championships, which I hope happens again, and I feel like it's going to. This was really a fun week for our whole team, especially me, since for all that to happen was unreal and the addition of being with my team was great.

Q: What's it like with Pepperdine's coaches and your teammates now that it's your second year?

A: It has been great. Last year I didn't know everyone at the start but this year I am good friends with all the guys, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Our coach is a great guy. He helps us with everything, even with school. I feel we have a really good group of guys because we can talk to each other about anything and that they genuinely care about how you are doing.

Q: Last year you achieved All-WCC first team honors. Do you have goals for like that for this year?

A: If I were to answer that a month or two ago I would say my goal is to be player of the year. But now I am just trying to improve my game and get better every day. It would be definitely be cool to be first team again but I am not focusing on that. That would just be an added bonus to me improving my game.

Q: How would you say you adjusted from the high school golf scene to college?

A: In high school you are only playing one team while in college we are playing 15 different teams at once. It is much more team-oriented versus high school. Now I have realized just how much each shot I take counts for my team. But I definitely adjusted better this year and now know more of what to do on the course and how to prevent bad scores. After I learned how to cope with school and golf everything has been much better.

Women's Soccer Q&A: Emily Tanaka

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Emily Tanaka, a senior on the women's soccer team, tells us about how she's grown as a person through her time at Pepperdine and what Pepperdine and this team have meant to her:

Emily  Tanaka

Q: How did you get into playing soccer?

A: I started playing AYSO soccer when I was 5 in Hawai'i. Just kids kicking the ball around and I never really stopped! I thought I might try other sports but soccer just stuck with me.

Q: Being from Hawai'i, how did you choose to come to California and play for Pepperdine?

A: There was an older girl on the team before me from Hawai'i who was a senior when I was a freshman. She was someone that I really looked up to when we played club together. When Coach Tim (Ward) approached me about coming to play at Pepperdine and I saw the school and met the team, I knew I wanted to come here. However, a lot of it stemmed from the influence my old teammate, Ally Holtz.

Q: Being a senior this year, how has your role on the team shifted?

A: I've definitely taken on more of a role model and leader role this year. I may not play the most minutes out of my class, who are all very talented, but I've taken on a role as supporter, encourager and hard worker. For me it was a struggle to transition into that role but it's been very rewarding.

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: I want us to win the WCC and with the incredible team we have now I think that we have the opportunity to possibly win the national championship. I don't want us to settle for anything less than what we are capable of.

Q: What are you looking forward to as the season ends?

A: I'm looking forward to possibly winning the WCC championship at home. Last year we won it at Pacific, which was great. But, winning it at home this year would be amazing. Also going to the NCAAs would be great.

Q: How has Pepperdine soccer shaped the person that you are today?

A: I've definitely changed a lot. I used to just go through the motions and do what was comfortable to me, but now I have higher goals and expectations for myself. That's the biggest thing that I think has changed for me. Also, how I interact with people around me, I no longer think just about myself because I have a team of 30 girls to look after.

Q: What would you say to soccer recruits interested in Pepperdine?

A: Definitely consider coming here! On the surface, Pepperdine is a great program and very competitive, but there's so much more. There are people here who care about you, who want to see you succeed and who will watch out for you.

Q: What are your plans post-graduation?

A: I want to take a year off to work abroad or get other new experiences. Then I'm going to apply to law school.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with Pepperdine soccer?

A: Singing "We Are the Champions" on the bus ride back from Pacific last year!

Cross Country Q&A: Nick Heath

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Nick Heath, the top runner on the men's cross country team, won the Highlander Invitational recently. He talks about his experience at the meet as well as his expectations for the WCC Championships coming up this Friday.

Nick  Heath

Q: How did you get into running?

A: I wasn't always into running. I actually just joined because some of my friends were joining the cross country team in our freshman year. I had never played a sport before and I'm not an extremely coordinated person so cross country seemed like something I could do. I wasn't very good at first but I liked it so I stuck with it. At first, I was really slow but with time I realized that I could be good at it if I just put in the work. So I did and by my sophomore year, I was the second-fastest guy on the team. Since then, it's been an amazing experience and I'm really glad I joined it.

Q: You have a really impressive record in cross country and track. What have been your proudest achievements?

A: I'd say one of my proudest moments in high school was when my cross country team qualified for the state meet for the first time in my school's history. The next year, we placed fifth and then in my senior year, we placed third. That progression was so satisfying and I was really proud of what my teammates and I did. As for college, at the end of last season, my race at the NCAA West Regional was probably the best race I've ever run.

Q: What has been different for you this year as compared to last year?

A: Personally, I had kind of a rough last track season. I got a serious hip injury and had to take about a month off. Coming back from that has definitely made me look at running differently and be a little more careful with myself. It has also made me value each day I'm here and able to do what I do. So much more than before my injury, and so coming into this season I won't take anything for granted.

As a team, it's been so great to have all the new freshmen who run alongside me every day and push me in our workouts and seeing them in races. I think they've been doing great things for the team.

Q: You won the Highlander Invitational last weekend. Can you talk about your experience at the invitational?

A: It was really fun. My coach showed me the results from last year before we raced and I was looking at some of the guys and I felt I could stick with the front pack because it seemed like a decent race. So I went out and I didn't take the lead immediately. I got off to a fairly normal start and worked my way up during the first mile. Once we got to the first-mile marker, I was up with the front runners and then from there, over the next mile, more and more people started dropping off the pack until eventually it was just me and one other guy, who I think was from Irvine. We ran side by side for the next mile and a half or so and we got to a point where there were about 600 meters left. That's when I broke away and I think he knew he couldn't keep on and so he just dropped off and I won.

Q: How did it feel to win at that meet?

A: It felt awesome. Honestly, it's just such a great feeling when you break away and take the lead. You get such a huge second wind and you just get this burst of inspiration and strength.

Q: Your next race is the WCC Championships. What are you hoping to achieve there and how are you feeling about it?

A: I've been looking forward to the WCCs for a while. We've got some really fast schools in our conference like Portland and BYU. I think last year I was kind of at the back of the pack of those two schools but I'm hoping this year I'll be able to beat some of their better runners and hopefully get into the top 10. And I'm also hoping to make a personal record. It's a new course and I haven't seen it before but it should be fun and I'm looking forward to it. Also, as a team, we've got a lot of new freshmen in and we're going to have a really good opportunity to do a lot better than we did last year. I don't know how it's going to turn out but I'm really hopeful about how we'll do.  

Q: What do you do before a meet to reduce pre-race anxiety?

A: For me, it's all about consistency. I like to treat every race as if it's a part of my normal routine. I get to bed early and wake up at my normal time and warm up with my team the way I normally would and finally when I'm at the starting line, I switch into race mode and get my game face on.

Q: What advice would you give to beginning athletes/runners?

A: My advice would be to stay patient and stick with it. Cross country is not something in which you'll see a huge transformation overnight. It's really just putting in the work every day to get better, step by step. As long as you keep focused and stay determined and take care of yourself, the difference between your first race and last race will be so incredibly huge and you will definitely go far.

Q: What have you learned in your years of training?

A: Mainly, I've learned the importance of being patient with myself. I've seen a lot of runners get stressed out and put too much pressure on themselves that they need to perform right here and right now at a race. I'm just grateful to be there and take the opportunity to do what I can and if it goes well then great, and if not, there's nothing I can do about it. I've also learned not to get carried away in training either. You've got to just run within your limits. Keep pushing yourself to expand those limits but remember that one day isn't going to make or break your career and so, just be patient.

 

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