JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Rainbow Wahine's Kanani Herring put down one of her 14 kills against UCLA on Sunday.
Herring makes big impression
The Kamehameha grad is honored to be part of the Wahine
She had her offers, dozens of them.
She could have played anywhere.
She knows it and so does everyone else who knows anything about volleyball.
But Kanani Herring chose to stay home for a variety of reasons, the most important being the pride she has in representing the Hawaiian community. What better place, then, would there be to play than at Hawaii, the university, and for Hawaii, the state?
"It's just such an honor," the freshman hitter for the 11th-ranked Rainbow Wahine said, preparing for tonight's match against No. 12 Minnesota. "It's awesome to have homegrown players imbedded in this program.
"My family said they would love for me to stay home, but if my heart was somewhere else, they would support me. I just couldn't see my family paying to see me play somewhere else. They are such a huge support in my life, so why not let them support me here?"
To the regret of many of the other top programs across the country -- Nebraska, UCLA and Florida included -- Herring signed with Hawaii during the middle of her amazing high school career at Kamehameha. She was the three-time prep and Gatorade state volleyball player of the year, led the Warriors to three state titles, was ranked No. 5 on prepvolleyball.com's senior aces list, and was honored as the Best Passer at the NORCECA Girls Continental Championship as a member of the gold medal U.S. Youth National Team.
Those who witnessed her debut at last week's Hawaiian Airlines Classic came away impressed by her athleticism, explosive jump -- she touches 10 feet, 3 inches -- overall ball-handling abilities and poise. Consider that, with UCLA holding match point at 24-21 in Set 4 on Sunday, setter Dani Mafua went to Herring three consecutive times ... and Herring converted all three to tie it at 24.
Although the Wahine lost the match, they found a valuable asset in Herring. She turned in the first of what is expected to be many double-doubles (14 kills, 18 digs).
"She's just a great player," senior Tara Hittle said. "She has so much potential and is only going to get better.
"As good an athlete as she is, she's even more humble."
It's a personality trait recognized by her coaches and teammates. It's been apparent since her club days, when she deflected the personal compliments in order to praise the players around her.
"She was never one to enjoy that attention, even in club," said UH assistant coach Ryan Tsuji, who coached Herring at 'Imi 'Ike Volleyball Club. "She was always one who would do anything to help the team out. She's the same way now.
"I think it says a lot that she started as a freshman, that she has proven herself to not only the coaches, but the entire team that she's capable of playing at a high level. It's kind of scary to think about where she's going to be in a couple of years if she's already making an impact this early on."
Penn State coach Russ Rose saw that first-hand when Herring started against the Nittany Lions in last Friday's season opener for both teams.
"I saw her play in club and she has such a high volleyball IQ," Rose said. "She's so explosive. I think it's great that a Hawaiian girl is playing at home.
"Certainly the fans here will love the career Kanani will have."