Ahuna steps away from HPU
She leaves Sea Warriors for personal reasons after two national crowns
Tita Ahuna, one of the most consistent winners in local volleyall history, stepped down yesterday as head coach and Senior Woman Administrator at Hawaii Pacific University.
Ahuna would not give a specific reason for leaving the school, only saying that it was an accumulation of events. She met with the players last night to give them the news.
"When it's time to go, you've got to go," Ahuna said. "I have to stand up for what I believe in and instead of sticking around, I am going to leave." HPU athletic director Jill Ward said Ahuna's decision took her by complete surprise and that she didn't detect any hint of the veteran coach being unhappy.
"She told us it was personal reasons and didn't elaborate," Ward said. "She had taken a month's vacation and returned with the news. I had no idea it was coming, but it is certainly a huge loss."
Like HPU's other coaches, Ahuna was not under contract other than an annual status form that would have been up for renewal in August.
Ahuna complied a 207-58 record in 10 seasons as Sea Warriors coach. She helped HPU claim two NCAA Division II titles (1998, 2000) as well as six Pacific West Conference titles from 1999-2001 and 2003-05.
In 2000, Ahuna guided the Sea Warriors to the only perfect season in NCAA II history with a 28-0 record, and was named NCAA Division II Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
"Because she was a very good player, she knew exactly what we were feeling at certain times," said Flavia Brakling, an outside hitter from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who graduated from HPU in May after playing under Ahuna for three years. "She helped me to be mentally tough."
As a prep player, Ahuna won state championships at Kamehameha Schools in 1982-83 and later coached the Warrior boys varsity squad to state titles in 1991 and '93. In 1987, team-captain Ahuna helped guide the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine volleyball team to the NCAA Division I national championship, and earned AVCA All-America honors in 1985 and '86.
Even as the announcement was only a few hours old, her absence was already being felt.
"That's a big loss for volleyball and for Hawaii," Brigham Young-Hawaii coach Wilfred Navalta said. "She is just an excellent coach and an excellent person."
"As a person, she was more than just a coach," Brakling said. "It's sad she's leaving."
Ahuna, who worked for four athletic directors in the past four years, leaves with a new season looming in a few months. The Sea Warriors are scheduled to open the 2006 campaign on Aug. 24 against Western New Mexico at a tournament to be held at UH-Hilo. According to Ward, the search for a new coach will begin immediately, preferably for someone with "collegiate experience, but someone with the right fit to continue the (program's) tradition."
The recruits will be contacted immediately after a new coach is named, Ward said.
"It'll obviously affect (the players), but hopefully because of their history, they'll remain with the program and continue that tradition under a new coach. But it will be a transition."
To say the least. Brakling said: "It's a great loss for HPU ... she's not replaceable."
The former player said one of her fondest memories was the way Ahuna was somehow able to build a team out of players who came from several different countries.
"She would say 'there are only two languages allowed: English and Pidgin,' " Brakling said.
Kyle Galdeira contributed to this report