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Ozee comes to grips with lost season

Seabury Hall graduate reflects on her UH team that had national title hopes, weighs options

Amy Ozee and the University of Hawaii beach volleyball team were 7-2 and ranked No. 4 in the nation when the season abruptly ended due to concerns over the new coronavirus. UH ATHLETICS photo

Amy Ozee had a hard time grasping exactly what was going on.

The University of Hawaii senior beach volleyball standout and Seabury Hall graduate was playing in the No. 3 flight for the nation’s fourth-ranked team when the season was abruptly halted last month.

The Rainbow Wahine were in Florida when the news finally hit that their season — as well as that of all NCAA spring sports teams — was over due to concerns over the new coronavirus.

“With the lineup that we had this year, it was steady and strong in every single flight, and so this season I thought we were winning a national championship,” Ozee said Monday. “There was almost no doubt in my mind that we were going to come home from Alabama with the national championship.”

Ozee and partner Brooke Van Sickle’s 7-2 record matched the team’s mark.

“Gosh, me and my other seniors, this year, training for the team we had this year started probably July last summer,” Ozee said. “Us seniors, like, opening up a Google document, talking about our goals as a team, talking about what I wanted from team culture, what another senior wanted out of conditioning, what another senior wanted out of practice.”

There were five seniors on the SandBows roster.

“We came together to make sure we were on the same page, and to make sure we had the best culture, work ethics, standards, just everything, intelligence moving into this season,” Ozee said. “With the girls we had this year it was done, I want to say, flawlessly. The girls that we had were such good athletes, so caring for each other, so kind, so hard-working, smart volleyball players.”

Ozee, who has two classes and an internship to finish her business marketing bachelor’s degree, has also been “doing a lot of research” in light of the NCAA granting spring sport student-athletes another year of eligibility. She said she may take up to two weeks to make a decision.

Her fellow Upcountry senior on the Manoa campus, Colton Cowell of the No. 2-ranked UH men’s indoor volleyball team, shared his feelings with Ozee.

“We kind of just talk about how short — and for lack of another word — interesting this whole year has been, this whole COVID-19 virus spreading across the globe, it’s a little stunning,” Cowell said last week. “You can’t really prepare for something like this. There’s no way of preventing something like this other than shutting yourself down completely and social distancing, remaining indoors, and with that comes the expiration date on two promising seasons.

“The hardest part of our conversation was admitting that this was the right decision to do because, of course, we love the sport, we love competing. We wanted to continue with our season but it was definitely the right thing to do for the rest of the world and for our country. Specifically, to shut it down and reboot from a safer place.”

Ozee is also up in the air about professional volleyball.

“Before all of this happened, I was going to be done,” Ozee said. “I was going to graduate in May and then move out to California or wherever was going to be best for me to try and go pro.

“Now I’m considering, I have another year and I could get my master’s (degree) done. So, since I have another year of eligibility, like, why not? It’s just a matter of when, where, how — if I want to take it or not. Or I could just go pro.”

The way the whole 2020 season crumbled in a manner of hours was surreal for Ozee.

“We were flying out to play Florida State, USC and four other schools, and when we were in the Honolulu Airport we found out that USC had pulled out of the tournament,” Ozee said. “We weren’t even, like, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’ We were, like, ‘Oh, they’re scared. That has to be it. USC, they can’t handle this tournament, it’s just a little cold.’ “

Things developed quickly from there.

“Then we got to LAX and we found out that their season was canceled, and we were, like, ‘That’s so weird,’ “ Ozee said. “Then we landed in Florida and we found out that other teams were pulling out of this tournament and other teams were having all their tournaments canceled.

“Then we found out our tournament was canceled, then the Big West was canceled, and then the NCAA was canceled.”

They left on a flight home the next morning at 5 a.m., but Ozee still wasn’t convinced her senior season — and perhaps her UH career — was over.

“I was in complete denial,” she said. “They said, ‘Big West is canceled,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, for what? Two weeks?’ Then it’s back up, so we have two weeks of we’re still going to be training, there’s going to be conditioning, there’s going to be practice and if we don’t have that then we’ll be watching film at home, we’ll be conditioning on our own. This is going to be up and running in two weeks and we will be back on track to winning a national championship.

“That was my mindset, I didn’t believe that it was done. All my teammates were, ‘It’s over, I can’t believe this.’ I was, like, ‘I’m going to the gym.’ “

Before returning home, she went to the hotel gym late at night.

“My teammates came to me and said, ‘No, Amy, it’s done,’ and I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t wrap my head around it until about a week ago,” Ozee said. “Today, it’s still a bummer, but I’ve put it all into perspective, even though senior night is gone, and graduation is gone and NCAAs is gone.”

Ozee was a starter on UH teams that finished third, third, and fourth nationally the last three seasons.

“I know that there’s bigger problems at hand and I’m just grateful for the things that I did have, the experiences that I did have,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have had those and even though the last couple months were gone, it doesn’t take away from everything else that I’m so grateful to have had here, and I know that all this shutting down stuff is for the greater good.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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