Ozee excited for trip back ‘home’ to Manoa
Seabury Hall grad set to face former team again as Cal Poly visits UH
In a different shade of green, Amy Ozee will be at home this weekend.
The Seabury Hall alum is a graduate student who plays for the Cal Poly women’s beach volleyball team.
The Mustangs, who are 14-4 and ranked No. 6 in the AVCA coaches poll, will play No. 14 Hawaii (7-5) on Oahu in three dual matches — one on Friday, two on Saturday. There will also be a pairs tournament on Sunday.
It will be familiar Manoa sand beneath Ozee’s toes.
“I am so excited,” Ozee said via phone on Tuesday. “I am literally so excited to be back, be back on Oahu, that’s home. Even just the UH campus, that’s home for me. I’ve actually been a little bit emotional, like, how excited I am to come back.
“It’s especially special for me because we didn’t get that last home game last season and it’s nice to know that I will have that closure. Granted, I’m in another jersey, but that doesn’t make it any different for me.”
The Mustangs beat UH 3-2 in a dual match on March 27. Ozee and partner Jayelin Lombard lost 24-22, 21-16 to Hawaii’s Pani Napoleon and Jaime Santer in the No. 2 match. Ozee is 12-5 this season.
After COVID-19 shut down the season last March, she left Hawaii with her bachelor’s degree in business marketing. She finished her career at UH with an overall record of 79-28, ranking fifth all-time for the school in career dual match wins.
She was an AVCA All-American honorable mention and all-Big West first team honoree in 2019, and all-Big West honorable mention in 2018. In 2018, she finished with a record of 35-8, setting the UH record for most wins in a season, and also had a school-record 25-match win streak that season.
She competed in three NCAA championships while with UH.
“I’m just happy to be there, win or lose whatever happens, whatever goes on during the tournament, I’m just happy to be there,” Ozee said of her return. “Just seeing my friends and to be home, I can’t wait.”
Ozee knows the emotions will be flowing.
“It might be a little overwhelming,” she said. “Those courts, even — that’s my home courts still to me. I mean, I spent four years there. … I assume I’m going to feel definitely nostalgic, but only good emotions.”
Playing for the Mustangs — coached by 2008 Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers — has been “very different” for Ozee.
“I definitely came out here because I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone, see new things, experience new coaching and get my master’s — I’m getting all of that,” Ozee said. “I’ve been able to push myself in the classroom and on the court in ways that I haven’t before.”
A different jersey, a different team, a different school, but a lot of what Ozee does each time she steps into competition is the same.
“It’s definitely weird stepping on the court and not getting to represent my home state and UH,” Ozee said. “But, for me, I’m still representing Maui and I feel like I’m still representing Hawaii with everything that I do, no matter what jersey I have on. That still gives me that sense of pride all the time for whenever I’m competing.
“And the Cal Poly squad is a great group of girls. I’m learning so much from all of them and I’m just excited to see what we do with the rest of our season.”
The Cal Poly assistant coach is Ari Homayun, who was one of Ozee’s former partners at UH.
“Last year at UH she was the volunteer assistant,” Ozee said. “She’s always been one of the smarter girls on the team and I know that from my whole year playing with her. … It’s really great to have a familiar face. It’s definitely kind of funny and a little bit of an adjustment for me since she was my partner, but she’s doing great and she’s great for the team. It’s great to see her grow into that position.”
While Ozee seeks out advice from Homayun on a number of subjects — “I can talk her ear off for hours … she’s been a great help,” Ozee said — Rogers is a big reason why Ozee chose to spend her last college season in San Luis Obispo.
“Coaching-wise I do go to Todd for the majority of stuff,” she said.
Rogers is glad to have her on the team. The COVID-19 shutdown of the season last year led to Ozee’s chance at a fifth year of eligibility.
“It’s a huge addition, she’s a fantastic player, she’d been a stud at Hawaii for the past four years,” Rogers said. “Anytime you add in someone who’s had four years experience playing at one of the elite teams in the country at a variety of different levels … your program is going to be significantly better.
“She’s in her fifth year of college, so she’s experienced, she’s mature. … She’s a very, very, very good athlete in her own right and a great beach volleyball player. So, huge additive for us and she made an immediate difference in our program.”
As Ozee nears completion of her master’s degree in quantitative economics, she is also preparing for a professional career that she hopes carries her to the Olympics.
“I am like a month or two out from having to enter the ‘real world’ as people call it,” Ozee said. “I’d say with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees I hope to find something in marketing or data analysis.
“I just want to find something where I can really apply those skills and it can help financially support my beach volleyball career in the future because that’s something that I really want to do and I feel that marketing is something that I’ve gotten pretty good at. … I’m still figuring it out.”
Ella Connor, a senior this year at Seabury Hall, has signed with Cal Poly to play beach, beginning next season.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much in this program in less than a year and I’m ecstatic to see what it’s going to do for Ella,” Ozee said. “She’s already a great volleyball player and I’m so excited for her. She’s a great kid.”
Ozee is proud to pave a path for players like Connor.
“I definitely carry a lot of pride with that,” Ozee said. “I think that is something very special. I didn’t really realize it until my time at UH because for me I don’t see myself as a pioneer. I see myself as another one of the followers.”
She mentioned current Seabury Hall boys coach Josh Sutherland, a former beach pro; and college indoor standouts Colton Cowell, Rocky DeLyon and John Eddins as the players she looked up to growing up in Scott Zucco’s Aloha Volleyball beach program.
“I know beach volleyball is different, but to me we all did the same stuff, Aloha Beach Volleyball camp, all being coached by Scottie,” Ozee said. “I always saw myself as ‘I just want to be one of the guys, I want to play with the guys.’
“Those are the pioneers to me, but the more I’ve realized my position as being in women’s beach volleyball, I just think it’s cool and I really am excited to see more girls doing it. And I really can’t wait to see Maui take the beach world by storm.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.