MISSOULA — Inheriting a roster with just three returning outside hitters, one of whom has not taken a swing in college, first-year Montana volleyball coach Brian Doyon addressed his team’s most immediate need recently when he signed Silerolia Gaogao of Waipahu, Hawaii, to a National Letter of Intent.
Gaogao (now-now), who goes by Lia (LEE-ah), will join junior Claire McCown, sophomore Janell Sparks and redshirt freshman Mykaela Hammer as the Grizzlies’ left-side hitters in the fall.
McCown led Montana in kills in 2014, Sparks saw limited action and was not a six-rotation player, and Hammer is coming off a redshirt season.
“Adding depth was part of it, but Lia also will bring something we don’t have, and that’s power and ball-control in one player,” said Doyon, who saw Gaogao in February at the Vegas Classic.
“When I saw her in Las Vegas, I was very impressed with her all-around abilities to play the game. Six-rotation outside hitters are great to have on your roster. In addition to her passing and defensive abilities, you also get a physical player at the net.”
Gaogao was the 2014 Oahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Division Player of the Year and a 2013 and ’14 first-team OIA Eastern Division All-Star. She also earned Honolulu Star-Advertiser Fab 15 All-State honors as both a junior and senior.
The 5-foot-11 Gaogao led Moanalua High School to a fourth-place finish at the 2013 Division I state tournament and a third-place finish in November. She was named to the all-tournament team both years.
She is the first player Doyon, who was hired to replace former coach Jerry Wagner in January, has added to his 2015 roster.
“Coach Doyon was a big reason I made my decision to play volleyball at Montana. He made me feel comfortable and welcome during my visit. I bonded well with him and the assistant coaches, as well as the team,” said Gaogao, who made her official visit to Montana in early March.
“The campus is really beautiful, with clean, fresh air and is totally different from my home, which I call paradise. Montana is like a paradise in a whole different scenic level.”
Gaogao already is familiar with the Big Sky Conference. Her older sister Remo, also an outside hitter, was a second-team All-Big Sky selection last season as a freshman at Southern Utah.
“I felt that Montana was a perfect fit for me both academically and athletically,” said Gaogao. “I can’t wait to start another chapter in my life, making new friends and memories and experiencing the state of Montana, the school, the volleyball program and four seasons. Especially the snow.”
Gaogao becomes the second player on Montana’s roster from Hawaii. Michelle Robinson, a right-side hitter who will be a junior in the fall, ranked second to McCown in kills last season.
“When you go to Hawaii, everybody wants to talk volleyball because of the popularity of the sport,” said Doyon, who was the recruiting coordinator at Utah before being hired at Montana. “It’s part of the culture, and that’s what makes it a lot of fun to get a Hawaiian into your program.
“They have such a passion for the game that it’s infectious. Lia will bring that passion. That’s one of the things I really enjoy about her. She really loves to play the game.”
Doyon expects to announce more roster additions in the coming weeks.
— Montana Sports Information