No Foolin’: Hawaii Is Making History

Hawaii coach Charlie Wade talks to his team during a timeout against Stanford during last season TONY AVELAR/SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Hawaii coach Charlie Wade talks to his team during a timeout against Stanford during last season

With the calendar reading April 1, it’s easy to think about April Fools Day, but it’s not fooling around to say that Hawaii sports made some history this past month, when no less than three of its collegiate teams were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

University of Hawaii men’s volleyball, UH Rainbow Wahine sand volleyball and Hawaii Pacific University men’s tennis all reached that lofty pinnacle in the month of March — it might be the first time in the island sports record books that so many teams have reached such a high spot in national rankings at the same time.

Charlie Wade’s Rainbow Warrior men’s volleyball squad finally got UH back to the position that teams in the 1990s and early 2000s made commonplace. In his fifth year of rebuilding the program, Wade, former Rainbow Wahine associate coach under Dave Shoji during an amazingly successful 11-year run from 1995 to 2006, now has the men playing the kind of volleyball that island fans have come to expect.

But there is more here than just a talented bunch on the court. This club also shows its Hawaii pride in other ways. A few weeks ago, I was attending a UH Rainbow Wahine basketball game at Long Beach State, in which the Wahine were struggling. Suddenly, as the second half began, into the Pyramid streamed several vocal members of the UH men’s volleyball team, who immediately stationed themselves behind the Wahine bench. Coach Wade told me they had rushed to the arena as quick as possible after landing at L.A. International Airport to cheer on their sisters from another sport.

“Coach (Laura) Beeman says we’re their good luck charm,” Wade tells me with a smile.

As if to underscore that supportive spirit, the Wahine rallied from a second-half deficit to win by one and secure the Big West title as its prize. The simple act of loyalty by the UH men was a No. 1 move indeed.

The second No. 1 island team of the past month is Jeff Hall’s Hawaii sand volleyball team. Hall, a former assistant to Wade with the Hawaii men’s team and also at Pacific, has helped lead the Wahine to become a dominating power-house in the fledgling sport.

The No. 1 ranking by UH’s sand volleyball team also gives the university the distinction of being the first school to have all three of its volleyball teams — women’s, men’s and sand — ranked at No. 1 at some point in their history. With sand volleyball only in its fourth year at the NCAA level, it’s easy to imagine that University of Hawaii will gain this position many more times in the years ahead.

The third No. 1 from the Islands is Hendrik Bode’s HPU men’s tennis team. Bode led the Sharks to the NCAA Division II championship match a year ago, when a magical previously unbeaten season ended in a heartbreaking loss to powerful top-ranked West Florida. This year, the Sharks avenged that bitter loss by defeating West Florida in a come-from-behind victory at a dual meet in California. In the ITA national rankings released March 25, HPU subsequently leaped over West Florida to take No. 1. It was a fitting tribute to the hard-working young men who have lifted the program to national prominence and marks the first time in school history that the HPU men have been No. 1.

As if having three top-ranked teams in the nation from the same tiny island state isn’t enough, Hawaii also boasts a couple of No. 1 individuals. BYU-Hawaii’s Dallas Zhang is the top-ranked singles player in DII — and he and teammate Karen Liu make up the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the nation.

No foolin’ — Hawaii sports are no ka oi!