University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball freshman Braelyn Akana eager to play for her mother’s teammat
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
University of Hawaii’s Braelyn Akana (15) and Kirsten Sibley (9) go to block during a team scrimmage held on Friday.
Twenty-five years ago this October, the Special Events Arena opened with Hawaii’s four-set victory over San Jose State in a Big West volleyball match. Setting the Rainbow Wahine was sophomore Robyn Ah Mow. Angelica Ljungqvist was a middle and in the middle of what would be her second straight All-America season, and undersized sophomore Joselyn Robins was at the other middle position.
Twenty-five years later, in what has been renamed the Stan Sheriff Center, Ah Mow — now the Rainbow Wahine head coach — and associate coach Ljungquist will open their third season with Friday’s Hawaiian Airlines Classic.
And Robins? One generation removed, her daughter Braelyn Akana, a freshman middle/hitter, begins her Hawaii career where her mother finished hers.
“It’s crazy,” Akana said as the Wahine prepared for their opener against No. 21 San Diego. “Their team was legendary, they were so awesome.
“It’s super cool to continue this, playing for her teammates. I’m super excited to start.”
In their final two seasons, Ah Mow, Ljungqvist, Robins and Co. went 66-4. Their 1996 squad is the last to have played in the NCAA national championship match.
Asked if Akana reminds her of her mother, Ah Mow said yes, adding a smile.
“They were both middles, both with good athletic ability and good jumping ability,” Ah Mow said. “Joselyn was a middle who turned outside hitter. For right now, middle is good for (Braelyn). She’s undersized (listed at 6 feet) but quick. She hasn’t had that many reps as an outside hitter, hasn’t taken all the defensive reps. We’ll have more time to work on that in spring. Right now, she’s right there with the (other) middles. She’s quick. Her mom was quick.”
Akana (Kamehameha) said that when she was being recruited, Ah Mow asked what position she saw herself playing in college.
“I told her I was OK with any position she gives me,” said Akana, who is wearing the same uniform number as her mom (14). “If she wants me in the middle, I’ll work hard in the middle. If she wants me on the outside, I’ll work hard on the outside.
“What’s been fun for me is that there are a lot of boosters who are like, ‘You’re Joselyn’s daughter.’ It’s cool that they saw her play and that they are still supporting the program.”
Whether Akana is in the starting lineup against the Toreros is an unknown. As of Monday, Ah Mow said she had not decided on a lineup.
What she has decided is that this season is a little different from the previous two. Not that she’s satisfied, but she seems more pleased heading into the opener.
“I’m excited,” Ah Mow said. “I feel like we have more all-around players.
“Happier? Oh, yeah. I haven’t had to yell that much. I have my voice left after two-a-days.”
Akana, whose father is former Rainbow Warriors basketball assistant Brandyn, is the third Wahine to follow her mother to Manoa. The others are Tehani Miyashiro (Joey Akeo Miyashiro) and Chanteal Satele (Lee Ann Pestana Satele).
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