Kamehameha alum Ho'opi'i learns to deal with losses


POSTED: Friday, April 03, 2009

Noelani Ho'opi'i is one of the few college athletes who didn't choose a school based on athletics.

The bad news, though, is that her decision to play softball at Santa Clara hasn't come with the same success she was used to having at Kamehameha.

The transition to college at Santa Clara has been extra hard for the 2005 Kamehameha graduate, who has had to worry about more than just living on her own and doing her own laundry.

Ho'opi'i has also had to learn how to deal with adversity on the softball field.

The Broncos have been through rough seasons unlike any she went through at Kamehameha.

While the Warriors were contenders for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship every season, the Broncos have had a challenge just to win half of their games every season.

“;I know we've had issues as a team as a whole,”; said Ho'opi'i. “;Honestly this team has been the best I've been on since I've been here at Santa Clara.”;

The Broncos went 24-34 during Ho'opi'i's freshman season, and it's been all downhill since. Santa Clara has barely won as many games since then, going 26-123 in the last 21/2 years, including a 5-25 mark during the first 30 games this season.

Ho'opi'i was the only player to start all 60 games for the Broncos last season and has started all but one game this season, batting .230 with nine RBIs.

She led the team last year with a .292 average, 20 RBIs, seven stolen bases and a .401 on-base percentage, and again leads the team with seven stolen bases this season.

“;I know I've gotten better individually as a player here,”; Ho'opi'i said. “;But I've never been satisfied with that. It's always been about getting better as a team.”;

It's scary to think where the Santa Clara softball team would be without Ho'opi'i, but the senior first baseman didn't choose the Broncos based on softball.

Despite playing with many teammates at Kamehameha who are playing collegiate softball all across the country, the game wasn't the most important thing to Ho'opi'i. Finding the best fit for her personally was the most important factor in choosing where to go to college.

“;I actually didn't want to play sports in college,”; Ho'opi'i said. “;I chose Santa Clara solely on academics, but my mom was like, 'You played for your whole life, you have a whole lot of talent, try out for the team.' “;

Ho'opi'i did exactly that, and even though the team hasn't shared much success, Ho'opi'i has done very well for herself. She's started 144 games for the Broncos, including 25 as a freshman.

As a junior, she had career highs in runs (21), hits (45) and home runs (7). She is trying to build off of that in her final season for the Broncos as a team captain.

Her fondest memory came from a 13-inning loss to Fresno State, which isn't remotely close to the longest game she ever played in.

That happened in high school, when Kamehameha and Punahou played in a game that lasted 21 innings and more than 5 hours.

“;I've definitely had some long and intense games here, but never that long,”; Ho'opi'i said. “;Games in college are more taxing and competitive. In high school, all I remember thinking is, 'Oh my goodness, how is this game still going?' “;

Another one of her best moments as a softball player came this year when the Broncos visited Hawaii to play against the Rainbow Wahine.

She played tour guide for her team and had them all over for dinner in between games.

“;We had Hawaiian poi, and for the most part they didn't like it,”; Ho'opi'i said. “;I think a lot of people liked the lomi-lomi salmon. The all-time favorite was haupia pie for dessert.”;

As rough as the softball season has been for Ho'opi'i, she has no regrets. The marketing major has nothing to complain about regarding her time at Santa Clara, which will come to a close at the end of the semester.

“;I think the best part has been being able to push myself,”; Ho'opi'i said. “;Academically and athletically, I've grown so much as a person and I've become more independent. Becoming a better person and experiencing life here has just been great.”;





        First base, Senior, Kamehameha '05