Rainbow Wahine volleyball team comes to camp ready
Saturday’s three-hour-plus practice saw Hawaii running set plays and out-of-system plays with the execution normally seen with a team that had been together a while. Not one with nine new players, including five true freshmen.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Day 1 of any season is filled with high expectations and optimism, players eager to start practice and coaches wanting to see what they have to work with.
But Saturday was different for the Hawaii women’s volleyball team, a Day 1 difference that went beyond having air conditioning in the newly refurbished Gym I.
The Rainbow Wahine finished one of the first drills in about six minutes, a passing drill that took 90 minutes to complete successfully two years ago. The Wahine then moved on to 6-on-6 play, something that didn’t happen at least a week into last year’s double days.
That is the difference — the huge difference — between Years I and II of the Robyn Ah Mow Era and Year III. Saturday’s three-hour-plus practice saw Hawaii running set plays and out-of-system plays with the execution normally seen with a team that had been together a while. Not one with nine new players, including five true freshmen.
If there was one word to describe it, it would be “Ready.”
“We really prepped for this,” senior outside hitter McKenna Ross said. “We knew what (Ah Mow) wanted and we weren’t going to allow the newcomers not to be on the same level.
“We worked really hard in the offseason, really hard in the weight room, really hard in open gym during the summer, taking it like a real practice. That we were able to move so quickly (into 6-on-6) says we’re going to have a great season and come out super strong from the start.”
It was evident Saturday, when the 16 players began stretching and running warm-up laps some 20 minutes before the scheduled 7 a.m. start of practice.
“The seniors helped prepare the freshmen so we wouldn’t come in blind,” said 6-foot-3 freshman middle Amber Igiede, the first Wahine from Louisiana since All-American Kim Willoughby (2001-04). “The best thing? Coach Rob told us (Friday) to be ready to compete. I love competing. My teams have been very competitive and I knew (Hawaii) would be very competitive. It’s a perfect fit.
“I see a lot of potential. We have jelled really well together. The freshmen are all comfortable with each other. We’re like sisters. It’s great.”
There are four transfers who joined the five freshmen as first-year Wahine. Three came in from Oregon: junior outside hitters Jolie Rasmussen and Brooke Van Sickle and junior libero Kyra Hanawahine (Kamehameha).
“It can be scary to come into a team and not know anyone,” said Van Sickle, whose father, Gary, played volleyball for the Warriors and mother, Lisa, for Hawaii Pacific. “Thankfully I already had friends (from Oregon) and that helps with the transition. But everyone has been so nice and welcoming.
“I thought today was good. There was good energy, everyone working hard. I wasn’t expecting us to go 6-on-6, but when Coach said we were, I was, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”
That Hawaii transitioned to a match-like setting so quickly was a surprise even to Ah Mow. She pitted the freshmen — plus Utah transfer and senior setter Bailey Choy (‘Iolani) — against returnees; it was competitive and fairly even.
“The one big surprise to me is this is just a different start from the last two years. I think we’e on a good path,” said Ah Mow, a former Wahine All-America setter and three-time Olympian. “Our ball-handling is a lot better. All our girls from two years ago are a lot better. We knew the competition was going to be different. We have a lot more hitters, a lot more middles. Our freshmen are not your typical freshman class. They got some ball-control and volleyball knowledge.
“I got to hand it to the girls. The returnees came back, working out in the summer, getting into better shape. They set the line and the freshmen are trying to hit that line. It’s why we could do 6-on-6, something I never thought I would be doing the first day.
“I’m excited. I’m excited for the season.”
Hawaii opens with the Hawaiian Airlines Classic on Aug. 30 against San Diego at the Stan Sheriff Center. Washington and St. John’s meet in the first match at 4:45 p.m.
The USD roster features sophomore libero Camryn Tastad, who played at Oregon last season and was on the Ducks roster with Wahine transfers Hanawahine, Rasmussen and Van Sickle.
This will be the final season for defensive specialist Rika Okino (Kalani). The redshirt junior is graduating in May with an engineering degree.