Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, January 20, 1997

Wahine take one last look
at special season

IF life is indeed a journey, and not a destination, then there comes a time to pause and enjoy the scenery.

One such moment came last night, when the 1996 University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball team took one last look in the rearview mirror before continuing on life's road.

The team that took the state on its first final-four ride since 1988, said its final aloha to more than 800 friends, family members and fans who became almost like family.

Those Nike folks who said "You don't win silver, you lose gold" during the Summer Olympics obviously wouldn't have appreciated what finishing No. 2 meant to the Wahine.

Stanford may have taken home the trophy from Cleveland last month but the Cardinal players did not capture the attention or appreciation of an entire state. Years from now, when Stanford's championship rings have tarnished or no longer fit, the Wahine players will still carry the warmth of this season in their hearts.

It was truly a team effort from the start, beginning when the players voted for a captain. It ended in a three-way tie: Angelica Ljungquist, Robyn Ah Mow and Joselyn Robins.

Last night's awards again proved it, with every starter receiving an individual honor.

How do you decide which of your two All-Americans is the MVP? You don't. Seniors Ljungquist and Ah Mow, pepper partners in practice since they were freshmen, shared the award.

Some of the selections were givens. Senior Nalani Yamashita earned Best Defensive Player and junior Therese Crawford Best Attacker.

To outside hitter Chastity Norbriga went the Most Improved Award, which could have also been the Most Injured. The fifth-year senior thanked her father and then UH trainer Melody Toth, telling the latter, "If it wasn't for you, I'd probably be in a hospital."

One honor that bodes well for next year was junior Cia Goods being named Best Blocker. But what won't return from this 35-3 squad is the inspirational play of senior Robins.

Out of all the anecdotes coach Dave Shoji told about his players, the one about Robins drew the most chuckles. And appreciative nods, for she became the symbol of how far hard work and dedication can take someone.

"Longy Okamoto told me, 'You've got to come see this

girl,' " Shoji said of tip he got from the late Kamalii Volleyball Club coach. "He said, 'She can't play but she can sky.' "

By the end of her career, Robins could do both.

BETH McLachlin, a member of the first Wahine collegiate team in 1974, spoke of how far the program had come since her playing days. Of how her team was ranked No. 2 and headed to the nationals with little attention being given by the local media.

"I called a radio station and asked why they didn't give out our score from the night before," she recalled. "Ron Jacobs said it was because no one was interested."

How wrong he was. But even McLachlin, a multi-All-American and U.S. national team member, couldn't imagine back then how the interest would explode like a strand of 10,000 firecrackers.

Is there anyone out there who doesn't have a Wahine signature or photo?

The Hawaii players have become household names. Just ask KHNL general manager John Fink, the former play-by-play announcer for the Wahine, who told of taking his youngest son out to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream.

"We're going to Joselyn's place, right dad?" David Fink asked.

"My son will forever think that Joselyn has a chain of ice cream stores," Fink said.

The ride isn't over for these special young women. But this leg of the journey has certainly been memorable.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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