E Komo Mai!

Welcome to Wes Nakama’s Hawai’i Sports Mo’olelo, a relatively new blog (born Sept. 23, 2021) dedicated to the stories — or mo’olelo — about our great state’s athletes, coaches, administrators and officials, past and present and from an “old-school” local boy’s perspective.

The old-school “local boy” is me, Wes Nakama, born in The Queen’s Medical Center and raised in the ‘Alewa Heights neighborhood of Honolulu on a steady diet of mostly ILH/OIA/UH sports. My first sports memory is holding my daddy’s hand as a 5-year-old crossing King Street one early September night and walking into Honolulu Stadium to watch the 1973 Father Bray Game between ‘Iolani and Campbell. I recall being fascinated by Campbell’s shiny black helmets, but being an ‘Iolani kindergartener, it was the first of hundreds of (Red) Raiders games in football, basketball and baseball my dad and I would attend over the next four decades.

So … just to be clear from the get-go: Yes, much of the content of this site will be ‘Iolani-centric. Sorry in advance to all other schools, but my dad raised me to be loyal to my alma mater, and it has stuck.

That is not to say there won’t be stories of interest from other schools, as I was always a fan of the rest of the ILH and OIA, and then later the Neighbor Island leagues as well. There will be plenty of stories to go around.

Same with my other alma mater, the University of Hawai’i: My first UH sporting event was a Rainbow men’s basketball game vs. Stanford the last weekend in January, 1976, at what was then called the “Blaisdell Memorial Center.” Although our family was there not to watch UH versus Stanford, but rather my brother’s Fern Park basketball team play KPT in a short “Jolly Roger” youth league exhibition at halftime. Still, I do remember a packed arena (6,000-plus fans) and the excitement of Rainbow Basketball, which I have enjoyed following ever since.

So yes, much of the college content on this site also will center around UH. But I also have more than a few fond memories of Chaminade, Hawai’i Pacific, Hilo and even BYUH and Hawai’i Loa, so there will be small college stories, as well.

And because many of our finest athletes played (and still play) at Mainland colleges, there will be stories beyond Hawai’i. Same goes with professional sports.

Most of the focus on this site will be on historical events versus current, at least for the time being.

Hopefully, things will eventually change and we can mix in some game advances, coverage, etc. … we shall see.

But for now, please enjoy the “soft launch” of this site, which I hope will grow into a source of great interest within our loyal sports community.

Welcome aboard!

Wes Nakama

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Hawai’i college basketball born in 1913

This article in the Feb. 4, 1913 Honolulu Star-Bulletin describes the first recorded game played by what was then the College of Hawai’i, a 14-13 victory over McKinley High School. (from Newspapers.com)

The year was 1913, and the day was Feb. 1: Woodrow Wilson was recently elected but not yet inaugurated as the 28th President of the United States. Hawai’i was still a U.S. Territory, having been annexed less than 15 years prior.

And the College of Hawai’i, established in 1907, had just moved to its new campus in Manoa from temporary quarters in Makiki, near Thomas Square.

At or around 7:15 p.m., inside the old Nu’uanu YMCA (different location from the present one), a referee tossed up the ball and just like that — college basketball was born in the Islands.

Well … a college basketball TEAM was born. The College of Hawai’i (it became UH seven years later, in 1920) sent out its first starting five against a quintet from McKinley High School. Well … mostly from McKinley, with a couple of “all-stars” added in due to roster absences.

It was a tight game, with Hawai’i emerging victorious, 14-13.

Hawai’i’s starting five consisted of guards Cousens and Pratt, forwards Meinecke and Starratt, and center Marcallino. Sorry, it appears athletes were not on a first-name basis with the media back then, as those were not mentioned.

The game article in the next day’s Honolulu Advertiser was all of two paragraphs long, saying the meeting was “lively throughout and very exciting and there was some real good playing on both sides.”

Curiously, the headline called it a “BUSHER GAME,” and the story led off with, “In an off game played at the YMCA games hall …”

Such words and descriptions like “BUSHER” and “off game” would be odd and even offensive today, but they probably were used because the College of Hawai’i team was indeed the new kid on the block, and not a member of any established league.

Keep in mind the “program” looked nothing like the NCAA Division I version we have today. College of Hawai’i did not even have a coach yet, only an unnamed “manager” who arranged the McKinley game. There was no set season schedule — other than a return game against McKinley at the same “Y” the following week.

In an article on Feb. 4, 1913, the Star-Bulletin commented, “there is no doubt but that fast ball will again be played” in the rematch. Turned out to be true … sort of. If “fast ball” meant a 23-13 score, again with Hawai’i on top.

The Star-Bulletin mentioned that “when the College team defeated High (on Feb. 1) they played a fine game. Two of the College’s strongest and best players are Meinecke and Marcallino and they showed their worth … Marcallino, who is captain of the team, plays center and plays it well.”

Of Meinecke and Starratt, the Star said “both are fast, but Meinecke excells (sic) a little on basket shooting and team work (sic). Pratt and Cousens make two splendid guards and finish up a team that has a good future before it. Substitutes … are Clark, Lemke and Barnhart.”

Lastly, the Star-Bulletin article gave a positive outlook for the future of Hawai’i college basketball, which thankfully the program lived up to in the next 110 years:

“This is the first year the College has taken up basketball, but judging from the energetic way in which the players are pushing things this year, the(y) intend to make the sport stick. The College contains many good athletes as has been demonstrated, and all that was necessary was for them to get together in order to make themselves seen and heard on the athletic field.

“Much is to be expected from the college in that line.”

This is the game article which appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser the morning after the College of Hawai’i’s first-ever game, a 14-13 victory over McKinley High School. (from Newspapers.com)

July 4 is a day to also cheer for baseball

The Knickerbockers’ Alexander Joy Cartwright, who later moved to Honolulu, is credited by many with drafting basic baseball rules on Sept. 23, 1845.

The Fourth of July, of course, is a day for the country to celebrate the Declaration of Independence and birth of our great nation.

But to me, for many reasons, July 4 also means baseball. It probably dates back to my childhood days, when my dad would take me to Hawaii Islanders games on the holiday featuring the traditional fireworks show after the final out.

So … to start a new 4th of July tradition, I would like to celebrate by taking a look back at the early history of the great game. This year, we will start … at the beginning (notes courtesy The Baseball Chronology):

Sept. 23, 1845: Alexander Joy Cartwright, a member of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club, reportedly drafted basic rules which would become adopted throughout the country. These include 1.) tagging a runner out, instead of throwing the ball and hitting him with it; 2.) foul balls and 3.) 42 paces, or roughly 90 feet, between bases.

Now, I understand there is recent debate whether Cartwright actually is the one who came up with those rules. But today is a day for celebration, so for today, I’m going with Cartwright.

Oct. 6, 1845: About two weeks later, the first partial baseball game (only three innings) was played under the so-called “Cartwright Rules.”

June 19, 1846: The first officially recorded baseball game under Cartwright rules is played at Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N.J. Final score is N.Y. Club 21, Knickerbockers 1

June 24, 1849: The first baseball uniform (blue wool pantaloons, white flannel shirt, straw hat) is adopted at a meeting of the N.Y. Knickerbockers club.

Of course, baseball history can take weeks, months, years to recall, so I’ll stop here for now.

And, as usual, I will spend another Fourth of July celebrating it!

Lee’s 28 pts. highlighted the first-ever ‘Iolani-Damien game in 1965

‘Iolani senior fullback Dale Lee found lots of room around left end en route to a 50-yard touchdown run in the Raiders’ 34-6 victory over ILH newcomer Damien at what was then called “Father Bray Field.” (Honolulu Advertiser photo Nov. 16, 1965)

When ‘Iolani plays host to Damien at 3:15 p.m. Friday in a crucial Interscholastic League of Honolulu football showdown, it will be the latest chapter in a tradition-filled rivalry that dates back to Nov. 15, 1965.

That was Damien’s first varsity season, coming three years after the school opened its doors at the current Houghtailing Street campus in Kalihi. The Monarchs’ head coach was former Roosevelt and University of Hawai’i quarterack Don “Spud” Botelho, who would become the first head coach at HUMMERS/Pac-Five eight years later. Imagine … two of the ILH’s current six programs (one-third!) was started by the same man. Way to go, Coach Bo!

Anyway, things were understandably rough that first season for Damien, which entered the game at 0-6-1. ‘Iolani was 4-3 but still fighting for a coveted spot in the prestigious annual Thanksgiving Day doubleheader at Honolulu Stadium.

Interestingly, although ‘Iolani had moved from Nu’uanu to the Ala Wai campus in 1953, this would reportedly be only the second varsity home game at what was then called “Father Bray Field.” And the first home game was only two months prior, against Hilo in the season opener. All other games in the previous 12 seasons were played either at Honolulu Stadium, Neighbor Island venues or one game at Leilehua (1958), Castle (1960) and ‘Aiea (1964).

This first-ever 1965 meeting between ‘Iolani and Damien also was perhaps the only “Monday Afternoon Football” game in either school’s history, as the original Friday afternoon kickoff was postponed three days due to a torrential rainstorm over the weekend.

But once the game did start, Lee wasted no time in lighting up the scoreboard. On just the third play from scrimmage, he found room around left end and scampered 50 yards for his first touchdown, then kicked the extra point himself. The later in the first quarter, Lee intercepted a pass from Damien quarterback Robin Freitas and turned it into a 62-yard pick-six, adding the PAT again to make it 14-0.

He then added a third TD on a three-yard run late in the second quarter to extend the lead to 20-0, but missed the extra point — a bit tired, perhaps?

The Monarchs closed it to 20-6 just before halftime on Freitas’ three-yard scoring pass to running back Chuck Makua.

In the third quarter, Lee scored on a six-yard touchdown run and then ran in the two-point conversion to put the Raiders up, 28-6.

Lee’s total of 28 points scored was a season-high for the ILH that season, and he finished the game with 90 yards rushing on 14 carries.

More importantly, his all-around effort and the team’s performance under soggy conditions helped ‘Iolani improve to 5-3 and remain in contention for a berth in that Thanksgiving Day doubleheader, which often drew sellout crowds of 25,000 in those days.

Fast-forward (a lot) some 57 years later to this Friday, and here comes Damien again to visit what is now called Eddie Hamada Field (at the Father Bray Athletic Complex). Mr. Hamada, of course, was ‘Iolani’s head coach and athletic director when the two schools first met in 1965.

There’s no wooden bleachers anymore, and the tennis courts that were behind those bleachers are gone, replaced by the Weinberg Building on the Diamond Head side and a four-story parking structure on the ‘Ewa end. Both schools — which were all-boys back then — are co-ed now.

But the stakes are high, each team fighting for the right to represent the ILH in next month’s Division I state tournament. Their game against each other last month was a thriller, with Allison Chang’s 24-yard field goal in the closing minutes being the difference for ‘Iolani’s 13-12 victory.

No matter the outcome Friday, it is great to see that 57 years after their first meeting on that November afternoon in 1965, we can still watch Damien and ‘Iolani go head-to-head in the ILH with much on the line.

The tradition continues …

Walter Achiu: Hawai’i’s first NFL player in 1927

Walter “Sneeze” Achiu, pictured in the mid-1920’s as a running back/defensive back at University of Dayton. Achiu later played for the NFL’s Dayton Triangles in 1927 and 1928, believed to be the first time someone from Hawai’i and someone of Asian American and Polynesian descent reached the NFL.

As the 87th NFL Draft wrapped up last weekend, the names of many past pro football legends came up, including those who broke new ground.

But as in past years, one name that probably wasn’t mentioned is Walter “Sneeze” Achiu.

Achiu, who was born in Honolulu in 1902, attended Kamehameha and graduated from Saint Louis, has remained surprisingly anonymous in the past 100 years or so despite being a ground-breaker in many ways.

For one, after graduating from Saint Louis, Achiu went on to a standout career (football, track and baseball) at the University of Dayton. Reportedly half Chinese and half Hawaiian, he was one of the first Asian Americans and Polynesian Americans to make a name for himself at the top level of college football.

Here is a picture and short write-up about him from one of the local newspapers during his time at Dayton:

A picture and write-up from the Nov. 22, 1923 sports section of the Dayton Herald. (from newspapers.com)

Achiu’s career at Dayton was so great, he was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.

In Fall 1927 — almost 20 years before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier — Achiu apparently became the first Asian American and first with Polynesian ancestry to play NFL football, as a member of the Dayton Triangles. He reportedly played in 11 games as a running back/defensive back over two seasons, starting five.

He later became a well-known professional wrestler, and died in 1989 at the age of 86.

Little else is known to the general public about Achiu, and even his 1989 Honolulu Advertiser obituary was a modest eight-paragraph story with no pictures or quotes and was buried at the very end of the sports section, topping off the regular obituaries.

But obviously, in 20/20 hindsight, Achiu was anything but regular.

Almost a century before Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, Manti Te’o and many others became multi-millionaire NFL players, there was a great football player and athlete named Walter “Sneeze” Achiu who blazed the first path for those from Hawai’i and those from Asian American, Polynesian and other minority descent.

So to the man named “Sneeze,” we should all say, “God Bless You.” And mahalo!

RIP Dennis Anderson: ‘Inventor’ of Hawai’i’s Homegrown Report

The Dec. 21, 1986 sports section of The Honolulu Advertiser featured this full-page report of former Hawai’i high school athletes playing football at small colleges in the Pacific Northwest. It was the beginning of Dennis Anderson’s “Homegrown Report,” versions of which became a newspaper fixture for the next four decades. (from newspapaers.com)

Dennis Anderson

Four weeks ago (Feb. 2) was National Letter of Intent signing day, an annual celebration of high school athletes making official commitments to accept scholarship offers from across the country.

Those who go away — either on scholarship or not — can take some comfort in knowing they won’t be forgotten back home in Hawai’i. It wasn’t always that way, but such assurance became normal starting way back in 1987 and has not wavered since.

For that, we can thank a man named Dennis Anderson, a former Honolulu Advertiser reporter who passed away Jan. 12 at the age of 84.

Anderson was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended college at Linfield (Ore.) and was already a newspaper veteran when he moved to Hawai’i in 1974. After working as City Editor at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from 1974-79, he joined The Advertiser as a reporter and then became a page designer and assistant sports editor.

Anderson’s son, Bryant, played football for Pac-Five and then continued his career at Linfield in Fall 1985. Dennis Anderson would fly to attend Bryant’s games and quickly discovered just how many former Hawai’i athletes were playing not just at Linfield, but throughout the Northwest and West Coast in general.

On Dec. 21, 1986, the Sunday sports section of The Honolulu Advertiser featured a full page of Anderson’s reports on these kids, including an article and photo of 20 members of Linfield’s NAIA football championship team.

Below that article was one mentioning 50 other Hawai’i athletes playing football at Central Washington, Eastern Oregon, Lewis & Clark, Oregon Tech, Pacific, Portland State, Puget Sound, Southern Oregon, Western Oregon, Western Washington, Whitworth and Willamette.

Over the next two years, such articles became a Sunday fixture and went beyond football and the Pacific Northwest: Thanks to Anderson, we were able to keep track of former Hawai’i athletes competing in basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis, wrestling … in California, Arizona, Utah and farther East.

The dedicated page (or more) was named “Homegrown Report,” versions of which have continued over the next four decades, still existing today in the form of the Star-Advertiser’s “Hawai’i Grown” report every Wednesday.

Homegrown Report not only served us readers in Hawai’i, but also — just as importantly — made the local athletes on the Mainland still feel connected to their families and friends back in the islands, and able to take pride in sharing their achievements from afar.

I witnessed this first hand during my National Student Exchange year at Cal State Northridge in 1988-89:

My dad faithfully would collect a week’s worth of Advertiser and Star-Bulletin sports pages at our ‘Alewa Heights home, stuff them into a soft U.S. Express Mail package at Kapalama Post Office, and send them for arrival at my Northridge campus apartment mailbox by Saturday.

On Sunday mornings, I would bring the package to my friend’s apartment nearby, open it up and pass the papers around to our other Hawai’i friends to catch up on the sports news from back home. Remember — no smartphones or even internet back then, so this pretty much was the only way to stay caught up.

A couple of our friends played football for CSUN, so when reading Homegrown Report, they would see their own names mentioned.

“Eh, you see!” said Peni Ah Yen, a defensive tackle from Farrington. “That’s what I like about da’ Advertiser: They no forget about us local boys!”

Here is another sample mentioning another of our CSUN friends:

From The Honolulu Advertiser’s Homegrown Report on Nov. 17, 1988.

If a short, simple blurb could bring thrills to a bunch of Hawai’i boys sitting in a San Fernando Valley apartment living room, imagine the excitement it brought to the McConnaughy ‘ohana reading it back in Kealakekua!

Thanks to Dennis Anderson, that excitement and thrill was shared throughout the Mainland and back home in The Advertiser for thousands of Hawai’i athletes and their families for the next 34 years, continuing to today. Anderson left the Advertiser in 2003 but continued to contribute as a freelancer for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, producing a similar feature called “Hawai’i Grown.”

Meanwhile, Homegrown Report continued at The Honolulu Advertiser under Stanley Lee, Leila Wai and Kalani Takase until The Advertiser shut down in June 2010.

Takase has recently revived the concept for ScoringLive.com, while Billy Hull has kept Hawai’i Grown running at the Star-Advertiser.

But it all started with Dennis Anderson way back in 1986.

There is much more to Dennis Anderson’s life story, including his induction into the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. We will probably mention him again in this space.

But in his own words, posted on his LinkedIn profile in May 2020, his “most satisfying accomplishment (was) giving positive recognition to deserving student-athletes, especially 17 years writing a weekly feature called Homegrown Report on the thousands of student-athletes from Hawai’i at Mainland colleges.”


Mahalo and fond aloha to my former colleague, Dennis Anderson.

Hawai’i hit a home run in its first major coaching hire: Otto Klum

Otto Klum was only 28 years old when he was hired as University of Hawai’i football coach and athletic director in May 1921. (Photo courtesy UH media relations)
Unlike today, there was not much media frenzy when Otto Klum’s hiring was first announced, as shown by this modest Honolulu Advertiser clipping in June 7, 1921. (from newspapers.com)

As we are about to enter the next chapter in the University of Hawai’i football story, I thought it might be fun to look back at the school’s first major coaching hire back in May, 1921.

As noted in the story below, UH football began in 1909 but through the 1919 season, the team played only local high school, club and military opponents. It was only in the 1920 season finale on Christmas Day that Hawai’i finally faced its first college foe, the University of Nevada.

The program had also gone through five different head coaches in its first nine seasons (there was no team in 1914, 1915 and 1916): Austin Jones, John Peden, William Britton, David Crawford and Raymond Elliott. Crawford, as noted in the story below, was an Entymology professor who later became school president!

Crawford Hall, one of the original buildings on the Manoa campus that still holds classes, is named in his honor. I spent much time there myself, since it was the home of the Journalism program.

Elliott coached only one season of football; he also was the UH track coach.

So in May of 1921, Hawai’i found and hired a 28-year-old Mainland high school coach named Otto Klum. He was a graduate of Oregon Agricultural School, later known as Oregon State, and already had established himself as an outstanding leader of prep teams.

From a Honolulu Advertiser article on May 21, 1921:

“According to notices in the Medford (Ore.) papers, (Klum) is one of the best known of the minor school coaches in the Northwest with an enviable record. Most of his work has been with the high schools of Ashland (Ore.) and Medford where he has turned out fast basket and football teams in spite of being compelled to work with the minimum of material.

“The Medford Mail Tribune states that Bob Spencer, (quarterback) of the University of Hawaii team, was formerly a protege of Klum’s in the Ashland high school. Klum, to quote the same paper, has the happy faculty of turning out winning teams the most notable example of the latter being the Medford high school team of last year.”

History will also show that to be true of Klum’s tenure at UH, which will almost certainly be chronicled again here at hawaiisportsmoolelo.com in the future.

But for today, as we embark on yet another new journey in the story of University of Hawai’i football, let us not forget the school’s first major hire — the man who elevated the program from basically a club squad into a true college team the islands could be proud of.

Otto Klum.

UH football’s first-ever college opponent was Nevada in 1920

This Honolulu Advertiser sports section headline appeared Dec. 24, 1920. (newspapers.com)
An unidentified UH safety (left) and linebacker pursue a Nevada ball carrier at Punahou’s Alexander Field. Note the “H” logo, sans tapa trim. (Honolulu Advertiser photo Dec. 27, 1920)

Depending on whom you talk to, the current state of the University of Hawai’i football program can be described as either (1) a hot mess, or (2) simply going through a rough patch in the rebuilding process.

Or just about everything in between.

But while that debate may rage on, at Hawai’i Sports Mo’olelo, my aim is to tell stories. So now is probably as good a time as any to step back, take a break and reflect on how football started at the University of Hawai’i in the first place, in particular from the intercollegiate perspective.

It is worth noting that for the first eight seasons after its 1909 debut, Hawai’i football was essentially a club team that actually competed against local high schools and non-scholastic club teams.

In fact, the first three seasons (1909-1911) saw only two different opponents (McKinley and O’ahu College/Punahou). The program then shut down for three seasons (1912-1914) and upon returning in 1915, added Kamehameha and Mills (Mid-Pacific Institute) to the schedule.

The 1916 season finale was against the National Guard.

The 1917 season again saw only high school opponents (Punahou, Kamehameha and McKinley), but the 1918 and 1919 schedules were filled with non-scholastic teams (Aero Squadron, Fort Shafter 1st Infantry, Signal Corps, Outrigger Canoe Club, Schofield, Luke Field and Town Team).

Remember, the first Trans-Pacific flight was still more than a decade away, so back then the only way to get to and from Hawai’i was by ship. So UH was extremely limited in its scheduling options.

After three successful seasons (11-1-2) under head coach David Crawford — an Entomology professor and Department Head who later became UH President! — Hawai’i “hired” Raymond Elliott to take over the football program.

(The word “hired” is in quotes because I’m not even sure if that was a paid position in those days)

UH began the 1920 season with five straight shutout victories, over Pearl Harbor Navy, Luke Field, Punahou, Schofield and Palama, before losing to Outrigger Canoe Club, 3-0. After rebounding with a 23-14 win over Waikiki, Hawai’i (6-1) then prepared for its first-ever college opponent, the University of Nevada, in a 3 p.m. Christmas Day game at Punahou’s Alexander Field.

The Sagebrushers, as Nevada was known back then, were 6-3 including wins over UC Davis, Utah and Utah State, and losses to Cal, USC and Santa Clara. Their schedule also included games against Nevada Alumni, San Francisco American Legion and Mare Island Naval Base — showing that even Mainland colleges played non-scholastic teams back then.

So while UH had never played a college opponent before, it was not expected to be a blowout and size-wise, the matchup seemed somewhat even.

Nevada took a 7-0 lead after a touchdown in the first four minutes, but then was held scoreless until the fourth quarter, when it sealed the 14-0 victory with a late TD.

The Honolulu Advertiser reported that “Superior knowledge of the finesse of the game, and the possession of a perfectly co-ordinating offensive and defensive machine are what gave the victory to the visitors despite the fact that Hawaii battled savagely and well in all stages of the melee except the first quarter.”

The article went on to state that “Hawaii played well, and in several instances brilliantly. The chief gains were made by brilliant passing in the later moments of the game.”

UH quarterback Bob Spencer was having a good afternoon “until he was called out of the game, in the second half after a bad smash.” Supposedly that’s what a “katoosh” was called back then.

“For Hawaii, Spencer, Mott-Smith, Lydgate and Connant were noticeable to no small extent. The Hawaii line held well in the latter part of the game,” The Advertiser reported.

Another Advertiser article in the same section noted that “University of Hawaii did better than could really have been expected. Playing its first game with a real university, and against a team that has had the privilege of taking on the best on the Pacific Coast the local men … were a surprise to every one, including the Nevadans, who admit that Hawaii is not by any means an opponent to be made light of.”

As a loyal UH alum and hardcore Hawai’i football fan since 1979, I am proud to learn that literally from Day 1 of intercollegiate competition, our program was described that way.

And over 101 years later, we can proudly say the same about our team today. Hopefully, this remains the case for another century, and beyond.

“Here’s to our dear Hawai’i, here’s to the Green and White.

Here’s to our alma mater, here’s to the team with fight!

Rah! Rah! Rah!”

First Wahine volleyball team overcame injuries to reach National Finals

These were the results of the first ever UH women’s volleyball season, in 1974. (Courtesy UH Women’s Volleyball Media Guide)

The University of Hawai’i women’s volleyball team makes its 28th straight NCAA Tournament appearance in Seattle on Friday against No. 23-ranked Mississippi State, which finally punched its first postseason ticket after 47 seasons of program existence.

By total contrast, the Rainbow Wahine’s first ever national bid came in their first ever season, ironically 47 years ago.

The year was 1974, and — believe it or not — the team was not coached by Dave Shoji but by a Mid-Pacific Institute and UH graduate named Alan Kang.

The Rainbow Wahines’ (still had the “s” back then) “regular season” consisted mostly of matches against local clubs, plus one victory each against UH-Hilo and Brigham Young-Hawai’i.

That was enough to earn a bid to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championship tournament at Portland State’s gym (yes, gym) from Dec. 12-14. In those days, shortly after the passage of Title IX, women’s college sports fell under the AIAW and not the NCAA. Hard to imagine such a classification today.

And unlike the current 64-team bracket, the 1974 version included only 24 teams, separated into four pools.

Besides the trip across the ocean, the Rainbow Wahines were depth-challenged, taking only nine players on the journey. According to The Honolulu Advertiser, Zelda Lainaholo was sidelined by an emergency operation and had to stay back home.

UH nevertheless made it through the first day by sweeping past Southwest Missouri State (15-4, 15-8), UC Riverside (15-5, 15-8) and Maryland (15-3, 15-4).

But then the nine-person roster was reduced to seven (!) after Artie Smith and Georgiana Hanohano were injured. That left remaining players Beth McLachlin, Joyce Kapua’ala, Joey Akeo, Marilyn Moniz, Linda Fernandez, Heidi Hemmings and Kathy Hollinger to assume the role of “Iron Women” for the rest of the tournament. Remember, there also was no libero back then.

Even very short-handed, the Rainbow Wahines survived Day 2 by defeating Cleveland State 15-0, 14-12 (time limit), Houston 15-13, 8-15, 15-5 and then Texas-San Antonio 15-9, 15-4, to advance to Saturday’s semifinal match against favored UC Santa Barbara.

Hawai’i then upset the Gauchos, 15-11, 15-9 to reach the national championship match against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked UCLA.

Alas, the Bruins prevailed, 15-7, 15-8 and the Rainbow Wahines ended their first season at 9-1.

“We played beautifully considering we had our back against the wall with all the injuries,” UH women’s athletic director Donnis Thompson told The Advertiser.

It was indeed a short but sensational debut season for a Rainbow Wahines program that would reach greater heights in the decades to follow. So as we celebrate yet another postseason appearance that has become the norm, Hawai’i fans should never forget those inspiring women who laid the foundation and represented the school so admirably from the very beginning.

UH basketball tries to gobble up Thanksgiving victories in Las Vegas

Junior forward Kamaka Hepa scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists in a Thanksgiving Day victory over Illinois-Chicago in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy Brandon Flores)

Ahh, nothing like Thanksgiving Day: Turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce all ovah. Yams with marshmallows. Honey-glazed ham. Stuffing and mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie.

Now top all of that off with an 88-80 University of Hawai’i men’s basketball victory over Illinois-Chicago in Las Vegas, and … What could be better?

Well, a next-day win over South Alabama would be a nice hana hou, for sure.

The Rainbow Warriors (3-1) will face the Jaguars (4-2) at 1 p.m. Hawai’i time on Black Friday for the Las Vegas Classic championship at The Orleans Arena. Now before you ask, “South Alabama?” just know that the Jaguars’ two losses were both close ones at Wichita State (64-58) and Alabama (73-68).

So this is a pretty good early season road test for UH, which could use another one before traveling to Santa Clara on Tuesday.

Senior center Mate Colina had game-highs of 23 points and seven rebounds and junior forward Kamaka Hepa added 19 points and six boards on Thursday to help the Rainbow Warriors hold off the Flames, who cut a 17-point deficit to 43-34 at halftime. Hawai’i then did not allow Illinois-Chicago to get closer than six points in the second half.

Senior forward Jerome Desrosiers finished with 16 points and six rebounds, senior point guard JoVon McClanahan added 10 points, six boards and four assists and senior guard Junior Madut contributed 10 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Freshman guard Amoro Lado played 16-plus minutes and provided eight points and two rebounds off the bench.

UH head coach Eran Ganot, who earned his 100th career victory at the school in the process, said earlier in the week that the team’s exact identity is still being defined.

“We’re still searching for it, but we’re closer,” Ganot said. “Three games in four days (at the Outrigger Rainbow Classic) will do that, and adversity will do that, too, if you handle it right. I’ve always said, we’ve got a great group of guys. I feel for them in some situations, with significant numbers down, but they’ve risen to the occasion. Everybody is part of the solution, guys are playing out of position, different positions. We’re looking at different things, different combinations, different styles. I think that will happen as the season goes along.

“The good thing for us is we have (this) tournament, and a big game just three or four days right after that. All this is about preparing us for conference play as we go through this journey.”

As far as a post-Thanksgiving feast hangover, don’t worry about that. The Rainbow Warriors actually celebrated the holiday together earlier in the week, as they do every Christmas when the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic is going on.

“We’re unique, because playing on Christmas Day, playing on Thanksgiving Day is not common for any team, but we’re used to playing on Christmas Day,” Ganot said. “We played on Thanksgiving Day when we were at the Wooden Legacy (Classic) in 2018 against Utah, and now more often than even when I started coaching, teams are playing on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. We still try to (celebrate together), because this is a family program, we celebrate the holiday season. We just do it on different days, and do an abbreviated version on that day, because we’ve got game day routines, and things like that.

“We had a Thanksgiving kind of meal, already, we’ll have a Christmas meal together and celebrate that — that date is already planned prior to Christmas so we can focus on the games on those days. We’re somewhat experienced in that.”

The strategy certainly worked on Thursday, and gave them extra time to prepare for South Alabama, which edged San Diego, 68-67, in the earlier game.

And the victory also surely made for more pleasant off-time and team bonding, which was another big goal for this road trip.

“Honestly, I think just traveling as a team will bring us closer together,” said Desrosiers, a transfer from Princeton. “We’ve been together for the past few months, but traveling together and staying at a hotel and going out in Vegas will bring us together and we’ll find that identity even more.”

If that occurs, then the Rainbow Warriors will be hoping that what happened in Vegas will not just stay in Vegas.

Roosevelt-‘Iolani series dates back to 1936

This was the feature photo of The Honolulu Advertiser Sports Section on Oct. 14, 1936, the night ‘Iolani and Roosevelt met for the first time in a varsity sport. The 85-year old series resumes this Friday night. (Photo clipped from Newspapers.com)

When ‘Iolani takes the field at 7 p.m. Friday night at Roosevelt’s iconic Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium for a key Division I interleague football showdown, it will resume a series between the two schools that dates back some 85 years.

The first meeting on Oct. 14, 1936 was also a big deal, even bigger than this week’s meeting between the undefeated Raiders (8-0) and potentially dangerous Rough Riders (1-2).

Despite being a rare Wednesday night game, it drew close to 10,000 fans at the old Honolulu Stadium. That’s almost twice the attendance of the Nov. 6 college football game between Hawai’i and San Diego State two Saturdays ago.

‘Iolani, coached by then-little known Father Kenneth A. Bray, was in its debut season as a varsity program but had already drawn attention by stunning longtime power St. Louis, 12-0, in the opener two weeks prior.

Roosevelt, meanwhile, was 2-0 and had established itself as a contender under its already well known head coach Neal S. Blaisdell, the future Mayor of Honolulu.

Besides being the first-ever varsity meeting between the two schools in any sport, the game also marked two other significant “firsts” for ‘Iolani:

  1. It was the first ‘Iolani football game to be played at night. The season-opening upset against St. Louis happened at Punahou’s Alexander Field, and a 7-0 loss to Kamehameha in the next game was held at the Warriors’ home field near the old King Street campus, across from where Farrington High School now stands.

  2. It was the first ‘Iolani football game played at Honolulu Stadium, where most of its games would be held over the next 38 years.

In fact, it was such a big deal, Father Bray held practice at the Stadium under the lights on the game’s eve in order to acclimate his players to the venue and atmosphere.

Alas, Roosevelt proved to be the better team on game night, prevailing 21-0.

Despite the point differential, Advertiser sports writer Andrew Mitsukado described the game as “the best yet seen this season at the Moiliili gridiron. The fans had hardly settled in their seats when Roosevelt and Iolani took turns in driving down the field with a spectacular burst of brilliant offensive. And all through the game there was a profusion of spine-tickling plays.”

And unlike these days, when some people head for the exits even during a one-possession nail-biter, Mitsukado wrote, “So absorbed in the tussle were the fans in the game that hardly a fan left the scene of the battle until after the final play …”

The Rough Riders came out on top thanks in large part to a stalwart defense and what Mitsukado described as a “triple-barreled running attack featuring (Joseph) Kaulukukui, (Nolle) Smith and (Jim) Olmos.” Kaulukukui threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Smith to help Roosevelt take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Both would later go on to star at UH, with Smith setting records and eventually being inducted into the school’s prestigious Circle of Honor. Olmos also lettered for the Rainbows.

‘Iolani hung tough and it remained 7-0 until the third quarter, when Olmos scored on a short TD run to cap a 46-yard drive. The Rough Riders then made it 21-0 in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard pass-and-lateral play, and Kaulukukui later sealed the victory with an interception.

Remember, everyone played both ways back then, and Kaulukukui also served as place kicker and punt returner.

Remember also that Roosevelt belonged to the ILH in those days, and so this 1936 meeting was the first of an annual rivalry that continued until 1970, after which the Rough Riders joined the OIA.

But even after that, ‘Iolani would sometimes play ILH games at Roosevelt, which was used as an alternate site probably on weekends where the OIA had Aloha Stadium reserved on Friday nights and UH had a home game on Saturday.

In any event, Friday night’s “tussle” will add yet another chapter to the 85-year history between these two friendly Honolulu rivals.