Warrior World extra: Sarah Toeaina
For Sarah Toeaina, waiting was often the hardest part.
A hamstring injury sidetracked a promising start to Toeaina’s freshman year with the Rainbow Wahine basketball team, keeping her out of the first nine games of the Big West schedule. The UH training staff worked to get her back on the court for the second half of the conference schedule, but even then she was fighting through pain in her leg.
After UH ended a 23-9 season in the WNIT, she focused on treatment and rehab to get back to full strength. But one of the toughest aspects of the process was heeding the prescription to simply rest.
“That was hard for me,” Toeaina said. “One thing Coach (Laura) Beeman told me was listen to the trainers. If they tell you to stay off the leg, don’t go in the gym, don’t do extra workouts.
“I can be a little stubborn and just want to get in the gym. But I’ve learned the hard way I have to rest sometimes.”
Toeaina, the subject of this week’s Star-Advertiser Warrior World feature, was rarely out of action as a three-sport standout at Kentwood High School in Washington. She earned four varsity letters in basketball, volleyball and track and field and found herself in an unfamiliar position on the UH bench with the injury. She returned for her sophomore year eager to apply the perspective she gained during her recovery.
“It was definitely tough watching, but it opened my eyes. It showed me a different part of basketball,” Toeaina said. “Sitting out and seeing what D-I basketball was I’d say was a blessing in disguise. Although I hated being injured I learned a lot during that time, and coming into this year finally healthy I’m ready to hit the gas.”
She opened her sophomore year by scoring 14 points off the bench in both of UH’s wins at Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. Her total at GCU surpassed her previous career best of 11 points set against UNC Greensboro last season. She ended the season averaging four points and 2.2 rebounds in 23 appearances.
“Part of it is Sarah played hurt all last year,” Beeman said. “I can’t tell you if there was one game that she didn’t play in some kind of discomfort with that leg and she’s healthy now.”
Toeaina’s mother, former Rainbow Wahine volleyball player Maile (Golden) Toeaina, was in Arizona for both games and coaches freshman volleyball at Kentwood. Sarah was a four-year all-star in volleyball and league MVP as a senior. After basketball season she competed in triple and long jump and the 100- and 300-meter hurdles for the track-and-field team under the guidance of her father Andrew, who played on the defensive line at Saint Louis and for the UH football team.
But basketball, which she picked up in second grade, remained her first love and became her focus in college.
”My dad said if I want to run track too there’s a track team here. But I was juggling three sports, maybe four sometimes, my entire life and it took a toll on my body,” Toeaina said. “It helped me develop into the athlete I am today, but I was really happy when I could focus on just basketball for the first time.”
Although her parents both attended and competed for UH, Toeaina said they didn’t push her toward Manoa. When she signed with the Wahine, they were able to prepare her for the transition to college.
“I’ve been asked if it’s pressure on me, no, they’ve done such an amazing job putting no pressure on me,” Toeaina said. “They give me a lot of insights about the collegiate level and they just said what to watch out for and they‘re just my biggest support group. … They know what it feels like to be a college athlete and what it takes.”
UH opens the home schedule on Friday against Loyola Marymount in the Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic. They’ll face Washington State on Sunday.
Toeaina’s parents will be in town for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown next week when UH faces Cal State Bakersfield, No. 18 Arizona State and No. 2 South Carolina.
Sarah Toeaina is an outstanding prospect for the wahine. Not based on any hype, but based on her court appearances. If she maintains consistency and keeps improving, she will be a star for the wahine. She has that kind of big play impact.
Ditto for Huff. They both stand out as sophs. Best wishes to the Toeaina Ohana.