HONOLULU (KHON2) — The University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior men’s volleyball team was honored in not one but two ceremonies on Wednesday.
It’s been more than three decades since the University of Hawaii’s athletic program captured a national title. Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi recognized the historic occasion by dedicating May 12, 2021 to the new champs.
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The Rainbow Warriors won the 2021 national championship on May 8 with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 sweep over BYU — it’s the first NCAA title in program history.
Regular season games did not allow fans to watch from inside the Stan Sheriff Center due to the pandemic, but the NCAA tournament allowed a limited number of fans to attend in person.
For the 2021 Hawaii national title team, it was the first and last opportunity to interact with fans on campus, albeit in a socially distanced manner. Cars would honk by, while players would wave and thank fans for their support.
On Wednesday, May 12, the team was honored in back-to-back ceremonies.
The first ceremony was held at Washington Place, with the governor signing a proclamation coining the day “Rainbow Warrior Day.”
“Welcome home to the 2021 NCAA champions, the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team,” Ige said.
Following Ige’s event, the team was honored by Blangiardi in a ceremony at Honolulu Hale.
“It’s ‘University of Hawaii Men’s Volleyball Day,'” Blangiardi said. “But, this victory, this season, will remain in our hearts forever. Thank you, Coach Wade.”
Head coach Charlie Wade and the team were touched by the recognition.
“It’s been a whirlwind since the 93 minutes of glory that we had in Columbus, Ohio, last Saturday night,” Wade said. “I’m not sure I can really understand what this means long term, but I know it’s a big deal. We’re really appreciative of being honored here today.”
Team captain Colton Cowell said as a group the team feels “a profound sense of gratitude to the community and to the State of Hawaii.”
“We will be eternally grateful moving forward,” Cowell said.
The team was escorted by the Honolulu Police Department and shuttled by trolley to each event.
Though both ceremonies were closed to the public, city workers at Honolulu Hale were able to show the team some love — something the team missed during regular season with fans barred from watching games inside the Stan Sheriff Center.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone,” said Rado Parapunov. “Love you guys, and all we’ve done this for you.”
Ige and Blangiardi touted the victory as a bright spot and source of inspiration and hope for the state amid the pandemic.
“It’s been a tough year on everybody and if we provided a few moments of pleasure along that way, we’re thrilled to be able to do that,” Wade said.
Congressman Kai Kahele offered his congratulations on the House floor on Wednesday:
Today, it is with overwhelming pride that I rise to congratulate the 2021 NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Champions of the University of Hawaii. In Columbus Ohio, this past Saturday the Rainbow Warriors dominated Brigham Young University in a 3 set sweep showcasing to the nation the qualities of a team hungry for a national championship only made possible through years of hard work, perseverance, grit, mental fortitude and sportsmanship. As a former Rainbow Warriors volleyball player, & proud alumni, I know how much this victory means to the program and all of Hawaii. So, congratulations, Head Coach Charlie Wade, the coaching staff, UH athletics program, the players and most importantly the best collegiate volleyball fans, supporters, boosters and Auntyʻs on the planet. Hawaii is so proud of you. No Ka ʻOi, and Go Bows!Congressman Kai Kahele
More appearances for the team are anticipated in the coming week.