Arizona State's Liliana Thomas Finds New Home In The Desert
There may not be a bigger name from the state of Hawaii in college softball than Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo. But there could soon be another player from the Aloha State who makes a big splash in the sport.
Liliana Thomas is a current freshman at Arizona State from Honolulu, Hawaii who played high school softball at Maryknoll School. ASU was always the college program Thomas wanted to play for, so signing with Arizona State was a no-brainer for her.
“ASU has been my dream school since I was little,” Thomas said. “Just playing in the Pac-12 at a high level of college, it was a really big deal for me. But it was my dream school, so I think ASU was the goal for me.”
During her time at Maryknoll, she won the Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year award. She also took part in elite travel ball and played for the Firecrackers out of California, where she made a name for herself.
“My experience in travel ball was definitely different from everyone else's because I didn’t have the opportunities that a lot of kids from California had just going to college camps all the time,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t do that. So being on a travel ball team really elevated my status.”
Playing softball outside of Hawaii meant Thomas had to travel at least once a month when school was in session. But during the summer, she would be gone most of the time. She mentioned missing family birthdays and spending time with her friends because it was always about playing softball.
The sacrifices to play the game were all worth it, however, according to Thomas. She even credits Alo for motivating her to keep playing.
“Back home she’s like a god,” she said. “She’s probably my biggest inspiration. She’s the reason why I kept playing because, I was like, she made it. If she can make it and I work as hard, hopefully I can make it to that level.”
The Honolulu native is listed as a catcher on the roster and could have big shoes to fill this coming season. With Maddi Hackbarth not returning after playing out her fifth year and backup catcher Harleigh Braswell transferring to Oregon State, there will be fresh competition at the position.
Thomas is expected to compete with Ole Miss graduate transfer Jessica Puk to be ASU's starting catcher in 2022. But the two have already developed a friendship in the short time they’ve been working together in Tempe.
“There’s definitely huge competition,” Thomas said. “I don’t think we’ve kind of acknowledged it because we’re very close. She has the experience over me, but just learning from her too, learning from all her experience throughout college and her just helping me throughout the whole process of just becoming an elite catcher has been great.”
Thomas is also excited to play for head coach Trisha Ford, who is entering her seventh season with the team.
“In my opinion, she’s probably the best coach I could have had at a D1 school,” Thomas said. “She makes the team feel like a family. She’s always checking up to see if everyone’s okay. She’s just the perfect coach. She was a big reason why I chose ASU too.”
Before Thomas steps on the field for a game in Tempe, she will always remember the place that brought her the passion she has for softball.
“I’ve made my lifelong friends through softball in Hawaii,” Thomas said. “I literally fell in love with softball through Hawaii. So, I owe all my college experience to Hawaii.”