The Fairfield University women’s volleyball 1,000 digs club can wave “Aloha” to their newest member Haililani Pokipala. The senior became the 11th Stag all-time and 2nd this season (joining junior Kara Reis) to reach the milestone.
“I’m happy I got 1,000 digs at home where the fans are and I’m really stoked right now,” said Pokipala.
It came down to the last point of her final game at home, but she was able to dig it out in front of the Fairfield fans.
“The coaches were like ‘you got to get this dig’… and I just stuck my body out and got it, so I’m really excited,” she said.
She may call Alumni Hall her home for the eight months of the school year, but she recorded the milestone 4,943 miles from her actual homeland. Pokipala is a long-time resident of Honolulu, Hawaii (or a Kama’aina as they would refer to her as on the island).
It’s a culture that she fully embraces as she is frequently fashioning a white flower or a “Pua” as the Hawaiians might call it. She is one of only two players on the team from the island joining the “Malihini” or newcomer Carsen Mata. The fact that they have the same cultural background has formed a bond between the two.
“She’s like a big sister to me. I’m going to miss her so much,” the freshmen Mata said. “When I feel homesick I can go to her and I feel at home.”
The two have tried to be teachers (or Kumu) to the team when it comes to implementing the Hawaiian culture. And for the Stags whose hometowns range from a few miles away in Milford to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, they have embraced the new teachings of the island filled with mystique.
“They want to know everything about Hawaii,” said Pokipala. “There’s a Hawaii club on campus that the whole team is [a part] of. They love to eat Hawaiian food, listen to Hawaiian music…they just love Hawaii.”
Now she is still getting accustomed to some East Coast customs. Pokipala has now been in Connecticut for around four years and is still learning from the region that can even feature a late October snowstorm.
“I remember freshmen year I didn’t really leave my dorm room because it was cold…It’s not even that cold to me anymore – I’m used to it,” she said.
The weather isn’t the only thing that she has become experienced in. Playing four years at the collegiate level has allowed her to improve in every aspect of her game.
“This year she really earned her spot,” said fourth year head coach Alijia Pittenger. “She really earned it. It wasn’t anything that was handed to her so she deserves all of it.”
Now her journey to 1,000 digs is done or “Pau,” as Stephanie Cruz and the rest of the team would say. But her goal is not. The Stags will be the two seed in the MAAC tournament that begins on November 19th and they will strive to win their first conference championship since 2001.
Carsen Mata and the rest of the Stags know how important the leadership and improved play of Pokipala is in regard to their championship aspirations.
“She’s a really good role model to look at when your under pressure and when your in a bad situation or losing when you’re down,” Mata said. “Haili is always up. We’re really going to miss that presence on the team because she did a great job with that.”