There were plenty of familiar faces on the court when the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine basketball team opened the 2017-18 season with its first official practice on Monday in UH’s Gym 2.
The Rainbow Wahine return 12 players, including nine letter-winners and all five starters, from last year’s team. Senior Sarah Toeaina, a first-team all-Big West Conference honoree a season ago, can already feel the chemistry with such a large group returning.
“It’s definitely different than last year,” Toeaina said. “It’s a calming feeling. We’re building a lot more chemistry in our preseason than we did last year.”
Hawai’i finished 12-18 last season, the team’s first sub-.500 season in head coach Laura Beeman’s five years at the helm, but showed maturation at the end of the year. UH beat eventual Big West tournament champion Long Beach State in the regular season finale and enjoyed a season-best four-game winning streak before being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Big West tournament. Despite the unfavorable record, junior point guard Olivia Crawford said the experience from last season will help the team improve this season.
“We definitely are very confident,” Crawford said. “We didn’t go too far in postseason play, but we learned from that and a lot of us got a substantial amount of minutes. We were the definition of average last year. That’s not something that we want for ourselves, that’s not a championship mentality. Average is not acceptable for us.”
Also returning to the court for Hawai’i this season are juniors Leah and Lahni Salanoa, and sophomoresCourtney Middap, Keleah-Aiko Koloi, Makenna Woodfolk, Taylor Donohue and 2017 Big West all-freshman teamer Julissa Tago.
Joining the UH returnees are Rachel Odumu, Tia Kanoa and Amy Atwell, who redshirted last season, along with freshmen Jadynn Alexander, Lauren Rewers and Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard.
The Rainbow Wahine will host the annual Green & White Scrimmage on Oct. 27 and an exhibition against UH Hilo on Nov. 1 before opening the regular season at Portland University on Nov. 10. The 2017-18 home opener is Nov. 17 against Northern Arizona as part of the Bank of Hawai’i Classic.