Two of the sweetest setters in the volleyball world were inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame last night, along with the woman who might be most responsible for giving them their opportunity to shine.
Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, Lindsey Napela Berg and the late Patsy T. Mink were honored at Honolulu Country Club. The Hall now has 114 members.
Nine played volleyball, including Ah Mow-Santos, Team USA’s starting setter at the past three Olympics, and Berg, right with her at the past two. The co-captains’ 1-2 Hawaii setting punch in Beijing lifted the U.S. to a silver medal.
Mink, co-author of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, is honored under the simple title of "Women’s Sports." Nothing about the former congresswoman’s most memorable act was simple.
Renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after her death in 2002, she made it unlawful to discriminate against gender in any educational program receiving federal funds.
Denied entrance to about 20 medical schools because she was a woman, the Paia-born Mink was adamant about equality. While female admission to law schools and medical schools has risen to 50 percent since 1972, her work will always be linked most closely with women’s sports, which was receiving 2 percent of the college athletic budget back then.
Interest and opportunities for female athletes multiplied madly after Title IX. In 1997, a year after Ah Mow-Santos guided the University of Hawaii to the national championship final in her second All-American season, and a year before Berg graduated from Punahou and headed to Minnesota, Mink offered a compelling reason why Title IX would stand the test of time, despite many challenges:
"The pressure on families to give opportunities to their daughter is enormous today," Mink said.
It still is, a testament to the power of Mink’s vision. Ah Mow-Santos, a 1993 McKinley graduate, and Berg reaped the immense benefits and contributed their unique talents to rise to the top of international volleyball.
Ah Mow-Santos has always been shy, soft-spoken and driven by a desire for perfection. Berg is loquacious and can ignite a team like few others, with her outrageous jump serve and energy.
But both share the rare gift of putting the volleyball precisely where their hitters want it, when they want it there, with tremendous touch.
Both are also passionate about their sport and "dear friends."
Their hard-earned "gift" for the game has taken them all over the world, with Team USA and to lucrative professional careers in Europe. Berg could not come to the induction because she is still playing in Italy. Ah Mow-Santos is helping the UH men’s team this semester while she finishes her degree, which involves Title IX.
They have worked together as the hugely successful face of American setting the past decade, never wasting a moment or a movement. The fact they grew up in walking distance from each other only makes it more special, particularly for a place that has a special love for their sport.
They are now among the 22 Hawaii Sports Hall of Famers, including 12 swimmers, with Olympic medals. Both rose to the top of their profession, and passion, despite being overlooked early because of a lack of size. Ah Mow-Santos got her opportunity to start when a teammate finally told the coach she should. Berg’s opportunity came after a breakout season in the U.S. pro league.
Their Olympic dream is not over. Berg, 30, would "definitely" like to navigate the road to London in 2012, if her sore knees hold up. Ah Mow-Santos is ready and willing — "I want to play" — but with two small children and a husband deployed to Afghanistan, she knows it will be tough.
That has never stopped them before.