Hawaii women’s volleyball: Transfer players spice up first practice

Freshman hitter Riley Wagoner dug a ball on the first day of volleyball practice, as Pac-12 transfers Bailey Choy and Jolie Rasmussen stood ready behind her. / Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser

It was no typical Day 1 in Gym 1 at Hawaii women’s volleyball practice.

And it wasn’t simply the pristine environs of the renovated facility. Saturday morning was crisper than the norm, the consensus seemed to be, despite the fact that there were faces aplenty to learn and three-plus hours to dissect.

>> WAHINE VOLLEYBALL PRACTICE PHOTO GALLERY

Helping raise the level of play among nine newcomers were four Division I transfer players who arrived in the offseason — Bailey Choy from Utah and Jolie Rasmussen, Brooke Van Sickle and Kyla Hanawahine from Oregon.

“It felt really cohesive,” said Rasmussen, a 6-2 junior outside hitter who redshirted last season due to an injury. “I played with pretty much anyone, either over summer or in (our) previous school. I felt comfortable playing any position next to anyone. I feel like our team meshes really well; everyone is just willing to play whatever. Everyone just wants to be on the court.”

There was room aplenty for an infusion of talent. UH lost six starters, including three All-Big West first-teamers (McKenna Granato, Natasha Burns, Tita Akiu), from its and one-and-done NCAA tournament team of 2018 (18-9 record). The freshmen getting in their first practice were Braelyn Akana, Hanna Hellvig, Amber Igiede, Riley Wagoner and Tiffany Westerberg.

Third-year coach Robyn Ah Mow said she was happy with Day 1, though she rated the skill level on display as “maybe medium.”

Of the transfers, she said: “In my gym, the best six is gonna play. But it helps when people already come in with experience. They know how to handle the ball. They have experience actually playing. So it helps. But, at the end, transfer player, freshman, returnee, the best six will be on the court.”

Choy, a 5-9 ‘Iolani alumna, gives the Rainbow Wahine another capable option at setter to go with fellow senior Norene Iosia. Choy tallied 3,254 career assists, 860 digs, 88 aces and 47 total blocks as a Ute.

She got her undergraduate degree in finance at Utah and is going for a master’s in economics at Manoa.

“Oh my gosh. It means the world,” Choy said of being back. “There’s nowhere else like home, as people would say. But I truly, truly believe in that. The people, the environment. The family kind of culture here is like nowhere else.”

She remembered the flock of Ducks on the roster from their Pac-12 encounters.

“They’re awesome players. I played against them and I admire them; they’re great athletes. Like, to be able to play on the same team is fun,” Choy said.

Rasmussen, who had narrowed UH to her top five as a high school recruit in Encinitas, Calif., swore that the western migration wasn’t planned. She and Hanawahine (a Kamehameha graduate) made their decisions separately and were surprised when they told each other, she said.

Rasmussen received All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors her first two seasons at Oregon, recording 383 kills (2.52 kills per set) with a .210 hitting percentage, and 57.0 blocks. Hanawahine, a 5-2 defensive specialist/libero, appeared in 14 matches and dug 12 balls over two seasons.

“Brooke was our latest addition. I had no idea about her until a couple weeks ago,” Rasmussen said. “Like, ‘no way! You’re coming too? Come on by!’ None of this was planned. It was all just by chance. But we were all best friends there and we’re all best friends here. It just adds to the chemistry of the team.”

Van Sickle is the daughter of former UH volleyball player Gary Van Sickle and former Hawaii Pacific volleyball player Lisa Bragado. Over three years at OU, the 5-9 Van Sickle had 203 kills, 42 service aces and 468 digs. She arrives as a redshirt junior.

Rasmussen hailed her new teammates’ collective ability to slide between positions seamlessly.

“That’s really cool that we have that much versatility and diversity. Anyone can really play anything and do well at it, which you don’t really see a lot,” Rasmussen said. “(Usually) you can only hit this one thing, or you can only play this one position. You get people who can play a lot of positions, you’re going to be that much better, because God forbid, injury, illness, anything. You can just easily fill in someone else and they’ll be just as good. So I have high hopes for the season.”

As for Gym 1 itself, it seemed to hold up just fine to the stress test of a full practice. The climate control was a revelation.


“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” Choy said. “So, I remember from club, where there’s no AC, that’s a big thing. So we were constantly wiping, changing our shirts and everything. We’re really, really blessed to have this new facility to practice in. Even Gym II, and they’re getting Stan Sheriff (floor) ready for us. Ready exciting.”

UH opens the season Aug. 30 against San Diego in the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Invitational.

Bailey Choy hustled in an attempt to return a ball during drills. / Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser
Jolie Rasmussen dug a ball. / Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser

COMMENTS

  1. Cruisecontrol August 10, 2019 9:24 pm

    Great article! Counting down the days…..


  2. turfwar August 10, 2019 10:33 pm

    Great job Brian! Contribute more volleyball stories please. Your coverage of Wahine volleyball brings a different angle that’s much appreciated.


  3. H-Man August 11, 2019 12:03 am

    Me too – enjoyed this article. More articles please.


  4. Kazu August 11, 2019 10:13 am

    Hope to hear more on today’s practice. Like to hear more from the players especially the Freshmen’s.
    Wonder how the turn out was last night .


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