By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Maxine Block’s history-making year continued when she recently signed a national letter of intent with Dakota Wesleyan University, becoming the first volleyball player out of the Puna district to land a scholarship to a four-year college.
The 5-foot, 8-inch Pahoa senior middle blocker is also the first out of that small-school region to get a combined full-ride on a 70 percent athletic and 30 percent academic package, highlighting her 3.4 grade-point average.
She also had success at two levels: the Big Island Interscholastic Federation and Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament.
Block led the Daggers to their first state appearance since 1997, a spirited run that featured a first-round loss to Waimea, a consolation win over Hana, and a loss to Kalaheo for seventh place.
History hit her again, when she was named to the All-BIIF Division II first team at middle blocker. It was a first-time honor for Block, who was on the second team last year. But the significance is it’s a one-of-a-kind accomplishment.
She attends Hawaii Academy of Arts &Science, the public charter school that’s a nearby neighbor to Pahoa. Block will be the first, last and only All-BIIF first team Pahoa volleyball player who goes to school at HAAS. That’s because the Na Naia will compete on the varsity next season.
Block’s twin sisters Madeline and Genevieve are also students at HAAS, which played on the junior varsity the last two seasons. For the 2014-15 school year, Madeline will be a junior setter and Genevieve a junior outside hitter.
“Getting the scholarship means my hard work and my parents’ (John and Virginia Block) hard work have paid off, as well as that of my coaches,” said Block, who will major in English with an eye toward heading into education. “I won’t have to worry about a debt coming out of college. Not everyone gets a scholarship.
“My sisters are brilliant and driven enough not to need me as a role model. But hopefully, they look up to that.”
Block earned her scholarship the old-fashioned way through hard work, not only with her play on the court and grades in the classroom, but acting as her own recruiting service. She contacted coaches and sent out video her mom shot.
During the summer, Block attended several camps and went on a college tour/vacation trip with her family. In previous summers she played at the USA High-Performance tourney in Iowa, and club ball for Hi-Intensity, coached by former UH-Hilo standout Carla Carpenter-Kabalis.
Block went to Sinjin Smith’s beach camp for a week in Hermosa, Calif., a three-day camp at Cal State Stanislaus, and another at Western Oregon, the small college where her dad’s family resides.
“The whole summer was based on working on ball-control,” Block said. “Then at the ending of the trip, we drove to Canada, through Washington and looked at other universities. We stopped in Washington, Portland, Vancouver, and did college touring in the Pacific Northwest. We flew back before school, and jumped right into volleyball.”
She didn’t want to play a waiting game, angling for the best offer. Once someone offered a full-ride or a combination of one, Block had her mind set to sign, a reason her college destination is over 3,700 miles away from home.
Dakota Wesleyan, an NAIA school in Mitchell, S.D., finished the season with a 7-28 record, including 0-16 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
“I think it’s so exciting that we’re bringing Maxine all the way from Hawaii,” Tigers coach Eric Viney said. “I know that she has had great training as a player and will bring a very different vibe and excitement to our program.
“Maxine will bring some true power to our offense. She has a very strong swing from all positions on the court — something we have been missing the past few seasons. We’ll look to utilize that power most likely from either the left or right-side pin.
“This is a great start to our 2014 recruiting class. To be able to add a player from Hawaii, along with three local players, speaks volumes to the positive direction our program is heading in the near future. It also shows that Dakota Wesleyan as a university is a great choice for all types of student-athletes. The future is bright not only for DWU volleyball, but for the university as a whole.”