After the departure of Rika Okino following the 2019 season, competition for the University of Hawaii’s women’s volleyball team was open in finding its next starting libero.
Despite the 2020 season being wiped out, that spirit of competition has carried over to the 2021 season.
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“Obviously we’re a team but at the end of the day, we’re also competing with each other,” Kamehameha alumna and Oregon transfer Kyra Hanawahine said. “I think the best way to compete with each other is to make each other better and it’s ‘we,’ not ‘me,’ so that’s kind of my approach.
“I think one of my strong suits is talking a lot, energy, communication and I think that is something that can set me apart and just stepping in the gym and being confident every day.”
Hanawahine has put in her bid to be the team’s next defensive specialist over the years. In 2019, she had 35 digs, 12 aces, 12 assists, and one kill for the Rainbow Wahine. Statistically, she’s the top returning libero on the team. Janelle Gong, who was recently awarded a scholarship, as well as freshman Tayli Ikenaga, are the other two liberos on the roster.
As the team builds towards its Aug. 27 opener against Fairfield, Hanawahine hopes to continue to serve as an inspiration towards other local players aspiring to compete at the college level.
“It’s a big responsibility, especially being from here and obviously I’m small so I just hope girls never count themselves out,” she said. “If you work hard and you stay true to yourself and you love the sport, then it can take you a really long way. I know a lot of girls that have come before me too and just looking up to them when I was growing up too. Sometimes I have to take a step back because you get so much in the routine like. Of course this is my life, but also just to be like, ‘Wow.’ You have to be grateful.”