Rainbow Wahine basketball puts rebuilt chemistry to test

Lahni Salanoa embraced head coach Laura Beeman during senior night festivities on March 2. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

UPDATE: UH jumped out early and held on tight for a 66-58 win over UC Riverside in the Big West semifinals, setting up a title-game matchup with UC Davis at 12:30 p.m. (HST) on Saturday.


When forward Makenna Woodfolk announced she was done playing basketball for Hawaii five games ago, it sent a shock through the Rainbow Wahine program.

For a team as up and down as the Rainbow Wahine were, even with their leading scorer and rebounder Woodfolk, it had the potential to derail the rest of the season entirely. And in the two games right after she left, that was apparent in losses to UC Irvine and UC Davis.

But coach Laura Beeman kept going back to one thing: rebuilding the chemistry.

Riding three huge wins, the second-seeded team (14-15) feels it’s done so going into today’s (11:30 a.m. HST) Big West semifinal matchup with third-seeded UC Riverside (17-14) at the Honda Center being live streamed on ESPN3. Also, (Here’s a free link to today’s full print preview of the game.)

I asked a few members of the team about chemistry over the last week. Here’s what they had to say.

Beeman: “I think there’s always room to grow with a team that believes, and we have a team right now that believes in what they’re doing. I told them (after the CSUN road win), basketball’s basketball, talent’s talent, but the mind-set of a team is what really matters. And that’s where we are right now. They believe in each other and they believe in what we’re doing. I absolutely think we have more room for growth. So yeah, it’s going to be exciting to see what we do in the tournament.”

Point guard Tia Kanoa: “I mean, I’m super proud of this team. Consistently. We’ve gone through adversity all three years that I’ve been here, whether that’s on the floor or not. And I think these girls I’ve been playing with these past three years, and watching them grow and being able to grow with them the past two years I’ve been able to be on the court, it’s the epitome for us. We really have put ourselves in the right area, the right position for ourselves to be successful at this high level. I’m just very proud of everybody for being able to come together like that. I’m also not surprised, because we’ve been through all kinds of things. So, our resilience has shortened. Every time we’ve gone through adversity, it’s taken less and less time for us to get it back together and put our best foot forward.

“It was a quick turnaround for us to be able to put those things together, and we did the job. I’m just super proud of everybody.”

Forward Leah Salanoa: “We haven’t been this successful since my freshman year. Losing Makenna, which was another bump in the road, we’ve had a lot of players leaving, coaches leaving too as well. Sadly to say, we’re kind of used to it. But we’re going to move on and work with what we got. And that’s what we’ve been doing. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group.”

Center Lauren Rewers: “We’re close, and we’ve always been close. And I think that throughout the hardships, even throughout the season, little things that have happened, we’ve always bounced back and we’re always there for each other. I think the will and buy-in that we have as a team, is just really contagious. And I think we use that and we build off of it, and through the highs and lows we know that we always have each other.”


Congratulations to Beeman on being named to the California Community College Athletic Association’s hall of fame in a ceremony on Thursday. Beeman, who was at Mount San Antonio College for 15 years prior to coming to UH, won 10 conference championships and four state titles over that span.

Tia Kanoa


  1. H-Man March 15, 2019 12:25 pm

    Wahine leading Riverside 38-31 at the half. Just praying they stay with game plan for the second half to come away winners. Coach Beeman has really pulled the team together after Woodfolk had to withdraw for the season. Great coachng.

  2. H-Man March 15, 2019 1:19 pm

    OK….Wahine pulled out the win 66-58 with Middap making the last 4 pts via free throws. Lahni Salanoa was clutch in the 4th.

  3. Matt March 15, 2019 2:15 pm

    Oh man…we got the win, but why do I have a bad feeling this team will get roasted by the Aggies, more so because of Bertsch? She’s a demolition derby on wheels. And with her 51% field goal accuracy, it’ll make things a little difficult for the team. Unless if Rewers does her job (And possibly a little bit of Joseph) on guarding Bertsch, maybe they could eke this one out, but I’m hoping that the whole team gives their 200 percent against them because this will be again a re-match revisited like the 2015-16 season, but different. Let’s hope history repeats itself.


  4. Raider Dogs March 16, 2019 9:06 am

    Just one more consistant group effort win get you the win. All of the hardwork will be rewarded in the end.

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