Rainbow Wahine will bid aloha to four seniors
By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Brandon Masuoka
After remembering the good ol' days, outgoing senior Amy Sanders spoke highly of the University of Hawai'i basketball team's future.
"I wish I had a few more years here," said Sanders, a four-year starter. "I think next year is going to be really exciting."
Sanders and senior teammates Brittney Aiwohi, Emily Helmly and Callie Spooner will be honored after tonight's final home game against San Jose State.
The group celebrated one of the program's biggest victories in Hawai'i's 79-78 overtime upset over three-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Louisiana Tech last year, and helped the team regain its winning tradition this season after an 11-15 campaign in 2004-'05.
Best of all, the group can still add to its accomplishments. Hawai'i plays its final two games at New Mexico State, March 2, and at Louisiana Tech, March 4, before the WAC Tournament, March 7 to 11, in Reno, Nev.
"That's to be seen," said Hawai'i coach Jim Bolla of the seniors' legacy. "All we can go by is what we did last year. Last year, we lost in the first round in the WAC Tournament. If we play well, we can win the WAC Tournament."
The team that wins the WAC Tournament receives an automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Tournament. Forty teams will make the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
"I hope to make a tournament other than just the WAC, whether it be the NCAA or WNIT," Helmly said. "I think we worked hard, and we deserve that. I think it would be a huge accomplishment for our team."
Tri-captains Aiwohi, Sanders and Spooner have weathered a coaching change in the middle of their careers. Longtime Hawai'i coach Vince Goo retired after their sophomore seasons, and Bolla came onboard to coach the group in their final two seasons. Helmly joined the team as a walk-on last season.
Here's a look at this year's senior class:
Graduation: Spring 2007 (Physical education)
Best memory: "Probably the win against Louisiana Tech, and just being a part of that. It was a good moment for all of us. And just meeting everyone on the team. It's been a good experience traveling."
Did you know?: Aiwohi takes care of her teammates. When Amy Sanders suffered from a stomach ailment that forced her out of the lineup earlier this season, Aiwohi's family opened its home, and helped nurse Sanders back to health. "She's one of my best friends," Sanders said. "She has a great heart, and someone who I'll be friends with forever."
Bolla's comment: "Brittney came here as a walk-on, and she earned a scholarship. In one of the Campbell games, she won the game for us. She hit three 3s and broke the game open (in a 69-59 victory on Dec. 16)."
Hometown: Bend, Ore.
Graduation: May 2006 (Elementary education)
Best memory: The most memorable game was our win against Louisiana Tech last year. I grew up watching Louisiana Tech on TV, and to be actually in a game, and beat them was a very memorable moment."
Did you know?: Helmly teaches second-graders at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa. "I love it. I can't imagine myself doing anything else. It's different everyday, the kids are so unpredictable. They're a joy to be around, and they're so young. They're enamored with everything we do in the classroom."
Bolla's comment: "Emily is a walk-on. She wants to be involved with the team. She's a good kid, good student and works real hard."
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.
Graduation: 2007 (Family resources)
Best memory: "I have a couple. One is beating Louisiana Tech last year. The other is this year's road trip at Idaho and San Jose. We went up there, and had a really good time as a team, and swept that road trip against two really good teams."
Did you know?: Sanders is a workout fanatic, and exercises with her father, Gary, on family vacations, even in 100-degree heat. "Everyone else thinks we're crazy. Pretty much vacations, it's not much of a vacation. I get stressed out like I'm going to miss a workout, so I kind of work out harder. I come back from vacation wiped out."
Bolla's comment: "Sanders started the last two years I've been here. She's one of the hardest working players I've had in my years of coaching."
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Graduation: Spring 2007 (Travel industry management, hospitality section)
Best memory: "Maybe my best memory is beating Louisiana Tech for the first time in school history."
Did you know?: Spooner played the piano, was a ballerina and was the 1997 Washington Junior Miss. She performed seven years in the Nutcracker Ballet in Vancouver, Wash. "As well as the piano, I did ballet. I started when I was 3, went to about 13. Then, I started playing basketball. It looks funny with a class of 5-foot ballerinas, and me, 6-feet with the toe shoes. It didn't quite fit anymore."
Bolla's comment: "She's going to match up to the teams we're playing. She's a good student, comes to play and works hard."
Reserve guard Cassidy Chretien returned home to Louisiana to deal with the death of her aunt, and will miss tonight's game, Bolla said.
Reach Brandon Masuoka at email@example.com.