Thursday, September 16, 1999
But it may be the Wahine
who have made the real find,
as the freshman from
Kamehameha is already
making an impact
WAHINE PLAYBOOKBy Cindy Luis
She just wanted to belong. To go somewhere and be with people who looked like her and understood that being Hawaiian meant more than being from an island group in the Pacific Ocean.
Lily Kahumoku came to Hawaii, searching for her identity. She has found a home.
The freshman from Lubbock, Texas, has also found her sport. The 6-foot-2 hitter is expected to again be in the starting lineup tonight when the No. 3 Hawaii women's volleyball team takes on fourth-ranked Long Beach State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I wasn't happy in Texas,'' said Kahumoku. "There aren't too many half Hawaiian-half Caucasian people running around. It's not that I felt discriminated against but I did have an identity crisis.
"We were the only Polynesians in the middle of west Texas. We weren't white, Mexican or Native American. I had to pretend to be something I wasn't because no one understood what being Hawaiian was.''
Kahumoku, whose father Roscoe graduated from Aiea High, transferred to Kamehameha Schools as a junior. Warriors coach Dan Kitashima quickly understood what he had; Kahumoku helped the Warriors to two consecutive state titles, including last year's 21-0 campaign.
"She plays at a higher level than I can remember anybody else playing that I've ever coached,'' said Kitashima, who has led Kamehameha to six state titles in the past 11 seasons. "She can hit with finesse and velocity.
"You have your good players and your franchise players. Lily is definitely a franchise.''
Wahine coach Dave Shoji feels the same way. Shoji, in his 25th season, said he has never had a player in the program like Kahumoku.
"Lily is a huge addition to our program,'' he said of the two-time Hawaii state player of the year. "She has qualities about her that separates her from any other player we've ever had. She can jump and I don't think we've every had anyone with her pure arm swing. The only one I might compare her to is (three-time all-American) Teee Williams.
"No doubt that Lily or (UH freshman setter) Jen Carey could easily be the Freshman of the Year in our conference. On a national level, Lily has to be one of the best freshman players in the country.''
But you won't hear that from Kahumoku. Her powerful swing is a distant second to her humility.
"I'm so fortunate to be able to contribute in some way, whether I deserve to be out there or not,'' she said. "I feel like I'm too new, too young to be starting. I have so much to learn.''
Her teammates have no qualms with her being out there.
"I respect her so much as a player and a person,'' said Wahine all-American Heather Bown. "She's so humble, patient and so eager to learn.
"She's still learning the game, but you can see she's matured just in the past few weeks. Things don't seem to bother her like they might some freshmen who are starting after the third match of the season.''
Her first start came against UCLA two weeks ago. Kahumoku put down her first three swings, in Game 1, including one on an overpass that had Shoji trying to hide his smile as UCLA called a timeout.
"She can terminate the ball,'' added Bown. "It's neat to see when she's in the back row that she'll call for the set (behind the 10-foot line). She's only going to get better.''
Coming to live in Hawaii as a 16-year-old was a hard decision to make. It meant leaving her family behind in Texas and overcoming major homesickness.
Staying to play in Hawaii wasn't difficult at all.
Kahumoku estimates she received recruiting letters from over 60 schools, sometimes getting 80 pieces of mail at one time when her father would forward her mail from Texas.
"I knew my junior year, the week after we won the state title, that I was going to play here,'' she said. "I was watching television and I saw Senior Night. It was so special. I said right then that was the school I was going to, no matter what.''
She took a recruiting trip to Colorado, the team the Wahine will face tomorrow night. She also considered Long Beach State, tonight's opponent. Her half-sister, Jessica Alvarado, culminated her stellar four-year career with the 49ers on last year's undefeated NCAA championship team.
"Long Beach State was in the back of my mind. It's a great program, but I don't think it was the place for me,'' said Kahumoku. "I wish Jessica had redshirted. It would have been really neat to have played against her in college.''
"We went after Jessica hard and didn't know back then she was Lily's sister,'' said Shoji. "It was so unique, the way Lily came to Hawaii and fell in love with the place. God sent her to us.''
Kahumoku was once listed in the Guiness Book of World's Records as having the longest middle name. Her Hawaiian name is 216 letters long.
"It fills up the birth certificate,'' said Kahumoku, who didn't give the complete translation. "Parts of my name are pretty ironic. It talks of a heavenly rainbow and thunderbolts.''
One of Kahumoku's nicknames at Kamehameha centered around thunderbolts. She picked up her latest monicker - Poi Pounder - last spring.
"I don't think I hit that hard,'' she said. "I'm just trying to keep getting back so I can contribute to the team. And whether that's on the court or on the sidelines, it doesn't matter. I'm just so thankful to be part of the team. I'm so thankful to be here.''
Schedule-Tonight: No.3 Hawaii (7-0) vs. No. 4 Long Beach State (6-0), 7 p.m. Tomorrow: Hawaii vs. No. 20 Colorado (6-1), 7 p.m. Saturday: Long Beach State vs. Colorado, 2 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center.
vs. Long Beach State vs. Colorado
Coaches-Hawaii: Dave Shoji (25th season, 688-135-1); Long Beach State: Brian Gimmillaro (15th season, 400-93); Colorado: Pi'i Aiu (3rd season, 49-18).
Series: Hawaii leads Long Beach State, 20-14-1, and swept the final Big West series meeting in 1995 in Honolulu. The Beach won a single nonconference match at the Pyramid, 15-8, 15-5, 15-0, in 1997. The 49ers lead, 5-0, in postseason play and Gimmillaro is 14-15 against the Wahine. Hawaii leads Colorado, 1-0. Last meeting: Hawaii won, 3-0, in the NCAA Tournament second-round play in 1996.
Top players-Hawaii: Heather Bown (6-3 Sr. MB),.398, 4.59 kpg, 2.3 bpg; Jessica Sudduth (6-2 Jr. LS) .193, 2.82 kpg, 1.00 bpg, 7 aces; Veronica Lima (6-2 So. MB) 1.95 kpg, .313, 9 aces, 2.86 dpg, 1.41 bpg, Jennifer Carey (6-1 Fr. S) 1.08 kpg, .460, 11.58 apg, 2.92 digs; Lily Kahumoku (6-2 Fr. LS) 3.14 kpg, .291, 2.68 dpg. Long Beach State: Tayyiba Haneef (6-6 So. MB) 3.27 kpg, .431, 1.05 bpg; Cheryl Weaver (6-2 So. MB) 3.09 kpg, .343, 1.41 bpg; Brandy Barratt (6-2 Sr. OH) 3.27 kpg, .310, 2.32 dpg, 1.00 bpg; Brittany Hochevar (6-1 Fr. S) 12.11 apg, 7 aces, 1.0 bpg. Colorado: Sonja Nielsen (5-10 So. LS) 3.85 kpg, .217, 3.15 dpg; Meghan Barkman (6-2 Fr. MB) 3.45 kpg, .408, 2.69 dpg, 1.50 bpg; Kristin Dorsch Engelking (5-11 Sr. MB) 3.24 kpg, .453, 1.48 digs.Kelly Campbell (6-1 Sr. S) 13.42 apg, 9 aces.
About the Wahine: Hawaii won the Aston's Imua Challenge for the fifth consecutive time with victories over Tennessee, Nevada and then-No. 20 Southern Cal... Bown was named the MVP of her second straight tournament. The All-American has two triple-doubles in her last two matches (17 kills, 12 digs, 10 blocks vs. USC, and 21 kills, 10 digs and 11 blocks vs. Nevada) ... Kahumoku has led the team in kills in two of her three starts, finishing with 19 kills both against USC and UCLA ... As a team, the Wahine are hitting .284 as a team with 15.96 kills per game and 3.88 blocks per game ...Hawaii moved up one spot to No. 3 in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll, receiving three first-place votes ... Shoji is 12 wins away from becoming just the sixth women's volleyball coach to hit the 700 victory mark ... Hawaii, the NCAA attendance leader the past four seasons, has already drawn 41,699, double that of second-place Nebraska (20,664).
About the 49ers: The defending national champs return three starters from last season's team that became the first in NCAA women's volleyball history to go undefeated (36-0). The 49ers have won 42 consecutive matches (third-longest in NCAA history), 49 straight home matches and 66 of their last 67 outings... Gimmillaro earned his 400th career victory last Friday in the 49ers' 3-0 win against Cal State Northridge ... Freshman setter Hochevar recorded a triple-double in last Wednesday's 3-1 win at San Diego State (57 assists, 11 blocks and 10 digs) Her six solo blocks tied the school record for second-best single match ... The Beach remained at No. 4 in the national poll, behind Pacific, Penn State and Hawaii.
About the Buffaloes: After losing its opener against rival Colorado State, Colorado has won six straight. The Buffs defeated Wyoming, 15-8, 15-7, 9-15, 15-9, Tuesday before leaving for Hawaii. Engelking had 17 kills and hit .600 against the Cowgirls. All-American Campbell had 55 assists, pushing her above the 5,000 career mark (5,022), only the second setter in CU history to reach that plateau... The Buffs are coached by Aiu, a Kamehameha Schools graduate... Colorado moved up a spot to 22 in this week's poll.
On the air: Both Hawaii matches live on KFVE (Channel 5) and KCCN (1420-AM).
Fun facts: Hawaii's Bown and Sudduth, and Long Beach State's Kristy Kierulff all played at Esperanza High in Yorba Linda, Calif... Tomorrow night's match against Colorado will by the Wahine's 100th match in the Sheriff Center. Hawaii is 90-8 in the arena since it opened in mid-1994.
Tickets: $5-$9 (upper level only).
Cindy Luis, Star-Bulletin
Ka Leo O Hawaii