» Kawena Cubi-Otineru
» Senior outside hitter
She wanted to dance, not play volleyball. She fought her DNA and her family’s insistence that the sport would take her to college.
"We are a volleyball-crazy family and, at first, I hated it," Hawaii-Hilo senior hitter Kawena Cubi-Otineru said. "I felt all this pressure to play.
"Dance, especially Tahitian, was my passion. Finally, my mom said, ‘Do what you want.’ Once they let me decide what I wanted to do, I came to love the sport. I’m glad I chose volleyball."
The youngest of five volleyball-playing sisters — a lineage that includes former University of Hawaii players Babes Kalulu and Aneli Cubi-Otineru — Kawena saw her collegiate career end sooner than expected. The Vulcans thought they were headed to this week’s NCAA West Regional, but after losing twice last week to finish the conference season tied with Brigham Young-Hawaii, the automatic bid went to the Seasiders on a tiebreaker.
Cubi-Otineru finished in the top 10 in three conference statistical categories: seventh in kills (219) and points (3.38 pps) and ninth in hitting percentage (.257).
"She improved a lot. I never thought she’d be as good as she is," former Wahine All-America honoree Aneli Cubi-Otineru said of her sister. "It’s sad that this generation is done, but we’ll never leave the game."
Kawena Cubi-Otineru had thoughts of following sister Aneli into pro volleyball, but knee problems likely will put her on a broadcast media career path instead. She graduates in May with a degree in communications.
"This year was different because it was the first year the attention was just on me," the 2006 St. Francis graduate said. "People always would say, ‘You’re Aneli’s sister.’ This year it was, ‘No, she’s MY sister.’
"I’ve been proud to carry the name. But volleyball is not done with us. We have nieces coming up."