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Setting sight on North Texas: How a Hawaiian setter chose the Mean Green

Setting sight on North Texas: How a Hawaiian setter chose the Mean Green

November 20
18:42 2020

Mikeila “Pua” Beazley is a freshman setter for the North Texas volleyball team, a title which is typical enough on its face. But how she arrived at North Texas is anything but typical.

Beazley grew up in Kane’ohe, Hawaii, and is one of just two players within North Texas Athletics originally from Hawaii. She began playing the sport at age six and gained interest in volleyball from watching family friends Chanteal Satele and Kanani Danielson compete for the University of Hawaii.

In addition to her unique background growing up in Kane’ohe, volleyball head coach Andrew Palileo discovered Beazley by chance on a trip to Hawaii to watch current sophomore defensive specialist Aleeyah Galdeira practice, the only other Hawaiian-born athlete at North Texas.

“Pua was a little bit different from past recruits,” Palileo said. “I was there to actually watch Aleeyah, and we were somewhat looking for a setter. If something popped up, then we would take one, and if it didn’t, then we were okay. Pua was at that same practice I was watching Aleeyah at, and that’s where I initially saw her.”

Palileo, who is from Honolulu, Hawaii, himself, said Beazley’s leadership during that practice really stood out to him and convinced him he wanted to recruit the 5-foot-9 setter.

“Her vocalness [stuck out],” Palileo said. “I really liked the possibility of her leadership qualities and [her] leading the team as a setter.”

Sharing her Hawaiian culture with Palileo and Galdeira — the latter having grown up in Waimanalo, Hawaii — was a big factor for Beazley in deciding to attend North Texas. She said family is an important aspect of Hawaiian culture, which was helpful for her even before coming to North Texas when then-freshman Galdeira and her family helped Beazley learn more about the university and navigate the process of moving to the contiguous United States.

However, the two players were not close friends in Hawaii despite living just a ten-minute drive from each other and playing for the same club volleyball coach. That changed when Beazley arrived at North Texas as an early enrollee this past spring, with the two bonding over their shared Hawaiian culture and looking out for one another.

“[Aleeyah] takes care of me and I try to take care of her, whatever I can do,” Beazley said. “She for sure took me under her wing when I got up here in the spring. It just shows how big family is in Hawaii. If you know someone from Hawaii that’s up here, you take care of them.”

Enrolling early last spring was challenging for Beazley at first, especially adapting to playing with all new teammates as a setter. She said having the extra time was very beneficial in getting to know her teammates’ tendencies on the court, however, even with the semester being shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was a fast decision I made when I decided I wanted to come up in the spring,” Beazley said. “It was the right decision, though, because I got to know the girls even more. And now, I came back after quarantine knowing them. It didn’t feel like new territory, it felt like old territory.”

Galdeira said having Beazley join the team last spring gave her someone she could relate to and helped her feel more connected to the team.

“I definitely feel more a part of [the team],” Galdeira said. “In the first semester […] I felt like I couldn’t relate to a lot of people because there were no other Polynesians on the team. With her coming, it was so much easier to relate on things about missing home or ‘Dang, this is so different.’ [Pua] understands, but the other girls wouldn’t.”

Their shared Hawaiian culture is something both Galdeira and Beazley said is very important to them. Beazley in particular said preserving that culture is important to her, a culture she said was close to being extinct before the Hawaiian Renaissance of the late 1960s and ‘70s.

“It definitely is a culture we need to preserve, and keep on doing practices like hula or chanting, […] because it was gonna be extinct,” Beazley said. “Now we have Pūnana Leo schools, which are like immersion schools where they teach little kids how to speak [Hawaiian]. Being Hawaiian is something that I love to say and something that means so much to me. […] I’m proud to be a native Hawaiian.”

On the court, Beazley said she is excited to play whatever role the team needs this season, and Palileo said she will compete with senior setter Kayleigh Skopal and junior defensive specialist Kasey Bortnem for the setter job this season. Bortnem shifted from defensive specialist to take over as setter last season after Skopal was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which she has since recovered from.

Palileo said Beazley has been everything he expected thus far as a player and has shown the natural leadership he first saw at work in Hawaii.

“I think she has natural leadership qualities and [a] take-charge type attitude,” Palileo said. “But she does it with such grace and poise and care that, a lot of times, players don’t realize they actually listen and follow.”

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John Fields

John Fields

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