When Rebecca Lee decided it was time to change course, one school already had the upper hand.
“News travelled pretty fast to Hilo,” Lee said. Her sister Dana was in graduate school at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, making for a quick and tidy recruitment.
Rebecca Lee left Mililani High on Oahu intent on playing college softball in Division I.
Four years later, she’ll leave UHH content she was able to rediscover her passion in Division II.
“I wanted to enjoy the game, especially the last two years in front of the people I love,” Lee said. “That’s how it’s been here. It’s been more enjoyable for me on the field. I don’t feel as much pressure. It’s more how I envisioned softball to be as the game that I love.”
“When I was in Division I, I lost sight of that.”
But she’s kept her eye on the ball ever since leaving East Carolina after two seasons. The reigning Pacific West Conference Player of the Year is a triple crown threat. She leads the league in batting (.533) and is tied for first in RBIs with 46. The catcher turned shortstop turned left fielder is third-best in the PacWest with nine home runs, and her 17 steals are also first.
There was another layer of added pressure early in the season when she was hitting north of .600 and teams started pitching around her. Lee would go 4 for 7 in a doubleheader only to see her average take a dip.
“It was so sad,” she said. “I’d have a good week and my average would fall. It’s OK.
“It’s more about patience at the plate and making adjustments and taking advantage of maybe the 1-2 pitches that I get at the plate.”
The fifth-place Vulcans (18-16, 11-10 PacWest) are in must-win mode entering home doubleheaders at 1 p.m. today against Hawaii Pacific (15-20, 13-11) and 1 p.m. Sunday against Chaminade (8-29, 6-20).
The contests mark the final home appearances for seniors Lee, Kristina Victa, Alyse Harris and Arren Nunez. All four are wrapping up their second seasons after transfering to UHH.
Coach Jaime Wallin called Harris (from Greenwood Village, Colo) and Nunez (Southgate, Calif.) “great people and great role players for the program.”
Victa and Lee, meanwhile, have been key cogs at the top of the order since their arrival, spurring the Vulcans to the postseason last year.
Victa, of Laguna Beach, Calif., is also a former Division I player, originally attending North Dakota State. She’s picked up where she left off last season after earning PacWest Newcomer of the Year, hitting .393 with 36 runs scored while patrolling center field.
“I think she wanted to go some place warmer and she had her heart set on Hawaii,” Wallin said. “Kristina has been solid and steady in putting up very similar numbers to what she did last year
“It’s going to be hard to replace the contributions we’ve gotten from those two.”
Lee said she can vividly remember attending her sister’s Senior Day at UHH in 2010. Dana, who’s set to graduate with a doctorate in pharmacy, will return the favor Sunday.
“It’s kind of a trip because we never thought we’d end up at the same school,” Rebecca Lee said.
They’re four years apart but seemingly never apart.
Dana Lee has a job lined up in Las Vegas, and Rebecca may pursue a masters of business administration at UNLV. She’s also thinking of studying human resources at the University of Hawaii.
“I’m kind of nerdy,” she said.
Harris, a communications major, is also on pace to graduate this semester and has her sights set on graduate school. Victa and Nunez are expected to return next semester to finish their degrees.
As for the unranked Vulcans’ postseason chances?
“At this point, we have a very outside shot,” Wallin said. “Is it possible? You never know how things are going to shake out.”