Born to be a Wahine


POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

The memories are a little fuzzy. After all, she was a 2-year-old when she watched older sister Babes Kalulu playing for the Rainbow Wahine in 1989.

But Aneli Cubi-Otineru does remember what it was like to be in Klum Gym, humidity and cheers equally heavy. It left an indelible impression, one that marked her athletic faith.

“;I have wanted to play here ever since seeing Babes play,”; Cubi-Otineru said. “;I am so blessed to have the opportunity.”;

Her path has included two state championships at Punahou and a junior college title at College of Southern Idaho. The only thing missing is an NCAA trophy.

Her last chance begins this month. It's an August full of two-a-days and challenges.

“;We have a very tough preseason,”; Cubi-Otineru said. “;It's a starting point for us to look at how the NCAA tournament will be.

“;I'm proud to be playing for Hawaii. Anyone raised here knows the history, the winning tradition, what being a Wahine carries. When you see a Robyn Ah Mow, an Aven Lee playing, it gives you that feeling of: 'I want to be like them.'”;






”;I want to play volleyball after this season, in Europe, the national team or beach. It's still in my heart.”;


Aneli Cubi-Otineru
        Senior outside hitter




Cubi-Otineru has the distinction of playing this season as a graduate student. She received her B.A. in interdisciplinary studies last May and is working on a master's in public administration.

Her goal is to “;help unfortunate families,”; she said, “;but I still want to play volleyball while I can.

“;I want to see the world, maybe play pro in Europe, or maybe train with the national team again. I'm not ready to be done.”;

For three straight years, Cubi-Otieneru didn't know what it was like to lose the final game of the season, courtesy of Punahou and Southern Idaho. Even though it hasn't happened at Hawaii, she doesn't look at the defeats as total losses.

“;You gain so much from every experience,”; she said. “;Not everyone has been able to do what we've done, a WAC championship, getting to the NCAA tournament. Yes, I'm used to the first-place trophy but not everyone can have it.”;








        Hawaii's only loss of its inaugural collegiate season in 1974 came in the AIAW championship final ... against UCLA.

The only two losses Dave Shoji suffered in his first season of coaching the Wahine in 1975 came against ... UCLA, including the AIAW final.


And so began the rivalry between what would become two of the most successful programs in the sport. As well as its two most successful coaches: Shoji is second only to UCLA's Andy Banachowski (1,082-292) in Divsion I women's volleyball victories.


The teams have met every year since 1974, with Hawaii holding a 34-32 series edge. The Bruins, who won last season's meeting 3-1, make their annual trip to Honolulu for this year's season-opening tournament, the Chevron Invitational.


UCLA (22-11, 9-9 Pac-10) returns four starters and a seven-member freshman class that includes setter Lauren Cook, the daughter of Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook.