Iniki memory serves
Tulane coach

Andrea Alfiler no longer believes she was hired at Tulane University just to be an assistant soccer coach.


Andrea Alfiler: Her family barely escaped their home in time when Iniki hit Kauai in 1992

As an eighth-grader, she and her family ran for their lives as Hurricane Iniki tore the roof off her Kapaa home. That narrow escape to her uncle's proved valuable as she convinced members of the Green Wave football and women's soccer teams they needed to get out of town as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans.

"There must be a reason I came to Tulane, having the experience of dealing with Iniki," Alfiler said. "I was able to kind of ease a lot of tension and anxiety that our players had. The experience helped me handle the situation, not only on a personal level, but with all the girls on the team."

Alfiler coached at San Diego State last year but was not satisfied with her role as goalkeeper coach and began checking the want ads in the NCAA News last spring. She visited Tulane, in New Orleans, in April and was hired as assistant women's soccer coach.

"Never did I think I would go through a hurricane again. Sometimes things happen for a reason," Alfiler said.

The Green Wave were hosting a soccer tournament and had lost to Alabama the previous Friday.

"We practiced Saturday morning. After practice the administrators told us the school was closing down and the tournament was canceled. At that time, Katrina was a Category 3," Alfiler said.

When she woke up at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, she saw on the Weather Channel that Katrina had been upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane.

"I said, 'Uh oh, we're in serious trouble. It's headed our way, and we have to leave as soon as possible,'" Alfiler said.

Within half an hour, she, head coach Betsy Anderson and assistant Jim Schneiderhahn were trying to finalize plans for the women's soccer team to leave New Orleans.

"It took time because we were coordinating with the football team. Everyone was thinking we would leave late in the afternoon," Alfiler said. "I kept telling people, 'We have to go now.' Finally we got everyone -- about 150 players, coaches and staff -- on buses and left at 10:30 a.m."

The teams headed north for Jackson, Miss., where they were to stay at Jackson State. Normally the trip takes two hours. This time, it took 12.

"The players had their traveling bags. We took our uniforms and soccer balls. We had advised our players to bring the basic necessities -- IDs, sheets and a comforter -- because we thought we would be back in a couple of days," Alfiler said.

"We got a hot meal when we got to Jackson and spent Sunday night in a gym, the football team on one side and the soccer team on the other. Several people commented that it was just like a high school dance.

"We had strong winds. The power went out. A church blew down next door, but we escaped the full force of Katrina. But it brought flashbacks of waiting in line for hours for water and food on Kauai."

It did not hit the team members that they were not going back to New Orleans until they saw television reports on Aug. 30 after traveling to Birmingham, Ala., for a tournament.

"We played Louisville last Friday and the players played like champions," Alfiler said. "They played their hearts out. I've never seen a game played at such a high pace for the entire 90 minutes.

"We were the only Tulane team playing. We were the face of the university. It was so emotional for us. There were so many questions, so many ups and downs last week, not knowing what was going on in New Orleans."

Tulane administrators decided to cancel the semester, but the athletic teams would operate from other campuses.

While Anderson and Schneiderhahn went back to New Orleans for a couple of days, Alfiler and her players traveled to College Station, Texas, where they were welcomed by Texas A&M University.

"The people here at Texas A&M have been awesome. It has brought tears to our eyes because of the generosity of these people," Alfiler said.

"My main focus is the girls, getting everything worked out for them. I wonder what will happen when I have time to breathe. Being in a position where you have be the model for other people, you have to hold yourself at a certain level. That has been my strength."

Red Cross Katrina victim database

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