Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, December 9, 1999

W A H I N E _ V O L L E Y B A L L


By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Shelly Kim, once a walk-on at UH. has passed
the torch to SyRina Makainai.

Walk-ons have
helped pave way
for Wahine

The tradition continues on
the UH women's volleyball team
with SyRina Makainai

Bown, Kahumoku honored

By Cindy Luis


It is a proud tradition within a very proud tradition. It's being a walk-on for the Wahine volleyball team.

Hawaii has a long history of non-scholarship players who are usually short in stature but giants when it comes to contributions. Most have been back-row specialists, born and raised in the islands, and weaned on defense, discipline and ball control.

The latest in the line is freshman SyRina Makainai, whose genealogy can be traced back to the early days of the program when few female athletes received scholarships. Her more recent lineage includes Naomi Higa, Jaime Paet, Stephanie Shota, Wendi Park, Lori Higashida and Nalani Yamashita, and current Wahine Aven Lee and Shelly Kim.


Bullet Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Bullet When: Today: 5 p.m., No. 11 Colorado State (30-2) vs. No. 6 Long Beach State (29-3), followed by No. 3 Hawaii (29-1) vs. No. 13 Texas A&m (27-5). Tomorrow: Winners at 7 p.m.
Bullet Radio: All Hawaii matches on KCCN (1420-AM)
Bullet RealAudio: Live 'Net broadcast Click Here
Bullet TV: Both of today's matches live on KFVE.

These are players who grew up with dreams of playing for Hawaii and asked for nothing except a chance to be part of one of the top programs in the country. They've put in long hours in the practice gym for the love of the game and, if they're lucky, a few minutes of actual game time.

Most could be playing elsewhere, and playing full time. Their dedication and hard work earn them respect and, in most cases, a scholarship.

"I was really lucky,'' said senior Kim, a scholarship player at Tennessee State who transferred to UH after her sophomore season. "I came into spring ball without a scholarship but by fall, one had opened up.

"I wanted to play anyway, with or without the scholarship. Just the overall experience of being in this program is like nowhere else in the world. It's so cool to be a part of it. Volleyball in Hawaii is so big. You grow up wanting to be one of those girls you see playing on TV.''

Kim's senior season didn't turn out how she would have liked. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament during the alumnae match Aug. 28, rehabbed and was finally cleared to play two weeks ago.

Rather than use a redshirt season, the Kamehameha Schools' product decided to retire and concentrate on her major. Kim wants to be a geotechnical engineer and build tunnels.

"I'm ready to move on and school is getting very intense,'' said Kim. "It's been hard not getting to play. I'm still not 100 percent so I don't think the coaches are comfortable with putting me in.

"It's been a tough year, a real rough one, but I'm happy to be part of this team. I've been part of the history of local girls, the ones who are known for playing with heart, give 100 percent, go out and play hard.''

The fans don't overlook them. When Lee and Makainai, both 5-8, got to play in the front row against Prairie View A&M last Thursday, the Stan Sheriff Center crowd erupted.

"It was weird when I started walking up to the net and started hearing a whole bunch of noise,'' said Lee. "The whole arena knew. No where else but here would people cheer like that when you get to play front row.''

For one very rare rotation against the Lady Panthers, all three of Hawaii's defensive specialists - Lee, Makainai and 5-8 Margaret Vakasausau - were up at the net.

"You try to get them in when you can because they work hard and deserve it,'' said Hawaii coach Dave Shoji. "They are important to us. Few local players grow to be 6-footers so their best hopes of playing playing Division-I ball is to be skilled in ballhandling, passing and defense.

"Without a question, walk-ons are a big part of the team. They are really good team players and very unselfish.''

One continues to walk into practice every day, five years after her playing career was over. Park has been the Wahine team manager since 1995.

"The thing about a walk-on is you don't expect anything,'' said Park, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore. "You just want to be part of the team. It's not necessarily about getting into the game but of being part of the program.

"Just getting to scrimmage at this level is an experience you'd never get anywhere else. Getting a scholarship is the icing. If it happens, it's awesome. I feel a special attachment to our walk-ons. I know what it is to not even get into a practice scrimmage. I love it when they get into a game. It means more to me when I see them play than anything else.''

Park's cousin, Stephanie Shota, also earned a scholarship as a sophomore. The two were teammates in 1992.

"I felt fortunate that I had a chance to be a Wahine,'' said Shota, the girls' volleyball coach at her alma mater, Pearl City High. "I didn't expect a scholarship. It was a bonus on top of everything else.''

"It is a badge of honor to have been a walk-on,'' said Lee, who turned down other scholarship opportunities out of Kamehameha. "It's an honor to play for Hawaii.

"I knew what I was getting into, walking on. But I figured if I was going to be a better player, this is where I needed to be. And, now with a scholarship, I feel good because I've earned it.''

Makainai, a Maryknoll graduate, had a scholarship to play at Seattle University. But there was a problem with her transcripts and she wasn't accepted into the school's engineering program.

"School is a priority and it's worked out well because UH's engineering program is ranked higher than Seattle,'' said Makainai. "I'm going to stick it out (with volleyball) as long as I can but I'm also trying to graduate in four years. Classes will start getting harder soon.

"Walking on was hard at first because the level of play is not what I'm used to. Coming from Maryknoll, I was used to playing against these kinds of players but not WITH these kinds of players. I've become a better player and a better person.''

Bown, Kahumoku honored

Staff and wire reports

Heather Bown got a step closer to her second All-American honor yesterday when the senior middle blocker was selected to the AVCA District 7 team. Bown, a first-team All-American last season, currently leads the country in blocks (2.90 bpg).

Freshman Lily Kahumoku was named the district's Freshman of the Year. She is second in kills (.326 kpg) for the third-ranked Wahine (29-1).

The two were the only UH players on the all-district team, which includes the WAC, Mountain Pacific and Big West. Also named were three players in today's semifinal: Long Beach State's Cheryl Weaver and Anja Grabovac, and Colorado State's Catie Vagneur.
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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