Wahine's Akana ready to cap family's championship week

Nov. 25—Two of Braelyn Akana's siblings celebrated championships last week.

Two of Braelyn Akana's siblings celebrated championships last week.

The eldest of the group hopes to add a third title to the Hauula family's far-flung exploits on the final road trip of the University of Hawaii women's volleyball season.

A week ago, Tausili Akana helped Skyridge High School capture the Utah 6A state football championship in Salt Lake City. Last Saturday, Keonilei Akana contributed to top-ranked Texas securing its sixth straight Big 12 volleyball title.

This week, Braelyn traveled to Southern California with the Rainbow Wahine, who embarked on the trip needing one win in two matches to claim a third consecutive Big West crown and an NCAA Tournament berth.

"It's everything, " Akana said of the title chase. "My sister's team worked super hard. I think our team is ready for this weekend. We know we have to take it one game a time, but we're super excited and we trust our abilities."

UH (20-6, 17-1 ) clinched at least a tie for the Big West title on Sunday and faces second-place UC Santa Barbara (20-9, 16-3 ) today in the Thunderdome. They'll close the regular season on Saturday at Cal State Northridge (9-22, 4-15 ).

Tracking the seasons of children based in three states has kept Brandyn and Joselyn Akana racking up screen time and frequent flyer miles throughout the fall.

Joselyn, a former Rainbow Wahine outside hitter and teammate of UH coach Robyn Ah Mow, traveled to Austin last week to watch Keonilei play in the opener of Texas' homestand. She continued on to Utah for Tausili's title game, then returned to Texas for the Longhorns' clincher before heading back to Hawaii.

Brandyn, a former BYU-Hawaii and UH assistant basketball coach and current Kahuku hoops coach, stayed home and was in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for Braelyn's final home matches of the season.

"It is tough, but it's fun and exciting, " said Brandyn, who has elite status on his airline mileage plans. "That's been our lifestyle our whole lives."

There have also been times when Brandyn and Joselyn have three devices simultaneously streaming games.

Brandyn recalls four days last summer when the entire family, including the youngest of the family, 9-year-old Tasi, was under one roof before they dispersed : Keonilei to Austin for her first season with the Longhorns and Tausili to Utah, where he lives with Brandyn's sister.

Although separated by time zones and their varied schedules, Braelyn said the family makes time to maintain a daily connection.

"We FaceTime a lot, " she said. "We have a group chat that we text in every day. Our family is very close and we talk every day."

The siblings grew up in gyms and arenas, with Braelyn leading the way through an All-State high school career at Kamehameha and into Division I volleyball.

"She takes care of her younger siblings, " Brandyn said. "She's been very caring and very loving to all her siblings and she works very, very hard.

"They see her hard work and she's such a good example on and off the court and she's kind of paved the way for everybody."

After being apart from her UH volleyball family for three matches due to illness last month, Akana has helped power the Wahine to the cusp of the Big West solo title.

"I just felt like I was missing out on so much, " said Akana, who began her career as a middle blocker and has started 21 matches at opposite this season. "Our team is very, very close, so I really wanted to just come back and that made me really grateful to be part of the team and be able to practice and play, because I didn't like that feeling of being home and not doing anything."

Since returning to the right side of the UH attack, Akana has hit.313 with 74 kills against 27 errors in 150 attempts over the past 11 matches. On occasion, she has also gone back to her roots with attacks through the middle.

"It's great because it opens up more offense for us, " Ah Mow said. "Especially when the middles are taking blocks and (the opponents ) have to watch the right side a little bit more."

An explosive leaper with a powerful arm swing, Akana hit.344 in UH's final homestand of the season, punctuating a four-set win over Cal Poly with her 10th kill on Nov. 18 and posting six kills in 12 error-free swings in Sunday's sweep of CSU Bakersfield.

"It was amazing, " Akana said of putting away aloha ball against Cal Poly before UH's largest crowd of the season. "When I watched the film, just to see everyone's reactions and our team closeness, it was awesome."

Her parents will spend this weekend at home, tracking UH's progress online while Brandyn oversees the inaugural Patty Mills North Shore Classic at the Cannon Activities Center on the BYUH campus.

Amid the sometimes chaotic calendar, Brandyn distilled the family's approach to balancing the varied schedules and commitments to a singular concept.


Big West women's volleyball At Santa Barbara, Calif.

Hawaii (20-6, 17-1 BWC ) vs. UC Santa Barbara (20-9, 16-3 )—When : Today, 5 p.m.—TV : None—Radio : 1500-AM—Streaming video : ESPN +