Forty-two days after being named the successor to a 42-year run of the legendary Dave Shoji, his former player, Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, hit the practice court Monday morning for the first time as University of Hawaii women’s volleyball head coach.
Still in the process of making the full-time move back home to the islands, the McKinley graduate, with the help of assistants Jeff Hall and Kaleo Baxter, along with technology, has been able to monitor the Lady ‘Bows through spring training camp. However, being able to communicate in person, the expectations both on and off of the court certainly provided both her and the team a moment of realism that the no-nonsense ‘Robyn regime’ has begun.
“They didn’t tell us that she was going to be here, so I walked and was like, ‘Oooh! We are about to get our butt kicked,” said sophomore setter Norene Iosia. “But I mean, I’m excited that she’s here, definitely. It’s going to be 10 times better. Tough love, and that’s exactly what we needed.”
Ah Mow-Santos is only the third head coach in the program’s history. She is considered one of the most decorated players in school history, with an impressive resume that includes three Olympic Games appearances, and two first-team All-America selections. She’s also a member of the school’s Sports Circle of Honor and Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
“For her, it’s just all about effort. That’s her thing, effort, effort, effort,” said senior libero Savanah Kahakai. “As long as you’re doing what you’re told, and you’re doing it with pride and giving your all, then that’s all she can ask for.”
“That’s just how I roll. Coming in, I live for this. I love doing this. This is my passion,” said Ah Mow-Santos. “So if I’m going to give, come here at six o’clock in the morning and I’m coming here, I’m going to give my hundred percent, I expect them to give one-hundred percent. I don’t care about errors, mistakes. I just care about them coming here and working hard. If you want to stay on this team, I’m just going to be upfront with you. Come in the gym and work hard. You know? I want to be here, and if you don’t give your hundred percent, who’s going to get fired? I’m going to get fired. So I’m going to push you guys to the limit.”
From 2011-15, Ah Mow-Santos served as assistant coach under Shoji, mentoring former UH setter Mita Uiato, who earned three all-league and all-region honors and honorable mention All-America status. In 2014, she was on the coaching staff of U.S. Junior National Team for the NORCECA Women’s U-20 Continental Championship. She currently coaches club volleyball for the Vegas Aces.
Following her playing career at UH, Ah Mow-Santos went on to compete for the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team from 1999 to 2008 and was regarded as one of the top international setters in the world. She was the team’s starting setter in the 2000 and ’04 Olympic Games and in 2008, she helped guide Team USA to a silver-medal finish at the Beijing Olympics. She also played professionally in Italy, Portugal, and Switzerland. While playing for Volero Zurich in Switzerland, she earned the Swiss League’s most valuable player award.
At UH, Ah Mow-Santos played for Shoji from 1993-96 and was a two-time AVCA first-team All-America selection (1995 and ’96), and a three-time all-conference performer (1994, ’95 in Big West and 1996 in WAC). The Honolulu native ranks third in the UH record book in career assists (4,313) and fourth in assists per game (11.23), and in her final two seasons at Hawai’i, she guided the team to a 66-4 combined record which included an appearance in the NCAA title match in 1996.
Ah Mow-Santos will be with the team for their final practices over the next two weeks, before returning to Las Vegas to complete her full-time move to Oahu, which is expected for the summer.