European edition, Sunday, July 1, 2007

Being second-best might have carried the day for one of Europe’s perennial best.

A panel of coaches chaired by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore voted Patch graduate Kasy’e Lalau its 2007 female athlete of the year in mid-June.

During the school year, the Patch star added, for the first time in her standout athletic career, an All-Europe second-team selection in basketball to her routine first-team slots on the All-Europe volleyball and softball teams.

Lalau’s expansion into basketball achievement might well have made all the difference.

“I think so,” Lalau said by telephone on Monday when asked whether she believed her breakthrough basketball success contributed to her selection as athlete of the year. “It pushed me over.”

Not that Lalau, a four-time All-Europe first-teamer in softball and a three-time All-Europe first-team choice in volleyball, needed all that much of a boost.

Her senior softball season, typical of her four-year career at Patch, included eight no-hitters, 156 strikeouts in 83 innings and an earned run average of 1.19. At the plate, Lalau, whose All-Europe nomination lists her position as “pitcher/all,” batted .492 and stole 42 bases.

In volleyball, the high-rising, powerful outside hitter averaged nearly four kills per game, also in line with the numbers posted throughout her career.

But Lalau closed her case for athlete of the year with her big step in basketball. She averaged 10 points, three blocked shots, three steals and an eye-popping 17 rebounds per game to earn her first plaque in that sport.

Even so, Lalau said she was overwhelmed when she heard she had won.

“I was jumping up and down,” she said. “I was excited. I cried.”

Lalau’s reactions were hardly those of someone who assumed she’d win. For good reason.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” she said of being picked for the school system’s biggest individual award. “There are lots of athletes who play multiple sports.”

Few, however, play them as well and for as long as Lalau did at Patch.

“I was glad to be at Patch all four years,” said Lalau, who spent much of her free time in high school helping with the community’s youth sports teams. “I like this community. In a smaller community there’s more involvement with kids and parents.”

Next stop for Lalau, who is working with a local day care center this summer, is a community college in Hilo, Hawaii.

“It’ll be different,” she said about leaving the scene of her high school glory. “It’s pretty sad, but I’m an adult now. I have to plan ahead.”

Rest assured that athletics will remain part of the plan.

“I love volleyball,” the prospective sports-medicine major said, “but I’m more experienced in softball.”

And in finding places to stash all the athletic hardware she’s earned.

“We’re packing to move,” she joked about collecting her latest DODDS-Europe plaque. “I guess we’ll need more boxes.”

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