By Larissa Tawata, Sports Writer
Kahea Rodrigues grew up playing volleyball ever since the third grade. Since then, it was always one of her goals to play at the collegiate level. Fortunately, she has been given the chance to play and she has taken it in her favor. In addition to volleyball she grew up playing softball, and basketball, playing all three during her high school years at Roosevelt High School. She would have never thought that she would be playing collegiate volleyball for UH Hilo, especially at the age of 29 years old.
Originally from Oahu, Kahea moved to the Big Island and attended Hawaii Community College. After a semester she decided to take a break from school and moved to Vancouver, WA, then to New York, traveling and experiencing new things. In 2009 she decided to move home to help her family care for her grandmother. After the passing of her grandma in 2011 Kahea said, “I had an ultimatum, to go back to school or to start working. I chose to go back to school.”
When asked what made her want to play on the Lady Vulcs Volleyball team she responded, “during one of my advising sessions, my advisor asked why I wasn’t playing for the volleyball team, and he told me to go and try out. I told him that I was too old, I was reluctant but he knew that I wanted to play so he arranged for me to meet with Coach Reyes and all I had to do was show up and play; and now I’m on the team.”
Not letting her age define her and hold her back from achieving her goals, Kahea is currently a junior, majoring in communications. She is a walk on and is now one of the setters for the Lady Vulcs. Bringing a lot to the team she is a valuable asset. “It’s not often that you see an older lady playing a collegiate sport, especially here at UH Hilo,” says Coach Reyes. With her volleyball knowledge and experience of the game, she tries her best to help guide the team to success.
When asked about her age, Kahea chuckles and stated “I’m 29 and will be turning 30 in January.” Even with a large gap in age between her and the other girls on the team, she’s not afraid to let others know her age, “the next oldest girl is 22 so I think of all the girls as my little sisters.” Although being older comes with challenges, Kahea finds strengths in that being older she can see and understand things that their coaches are trying to explain, and she catches on faster than the younger ones.
Growing up playing volleyball, Kahea was always used to having a spot on the court, but things are different at the collegiate level, and she understands this. She puts her personal struggle of only being able to contribute to part of the game instead of the entire game behind her and supports the ladies as much as possible. She states, “I give whatever I can at practice and at game time I produce, even if it’s only for a few points or to serve. I’m not used to this, so this is something that I have to look past and contribute in any way.” Kahea is glad that she made the choice to play, and be a Vulcan. She states, “here in Hilo, being a Vulcan is huge, I go to the store and people that I don’t even know come up to me and tell me that I played good, it’s like I’m a type of public figure.”
The Lady Vulcs season is nearing the end, but as it does Kahea says that she sees that her team is getting better each day. They managed to overcome a non-stop losing streak on the road, by gaining a winning streak after returning home and they hope to continue the winning as they go on their last road trip and play four more teams.