The day-by-day grind rarely stops.
Haiti Tautua‘a wouldn’t have it any other way. The Waianae setter turned down more than 30 scholarship offers and committed to Pitt, where she will join the women’s volleyball team — in 2023. Tautua‘a is just a junior.
“I love it there,” the 6-foot setter said after a recent visit to the Panthers’ campus with her father, Francis. “It’s beautiful, but it’s cold for us.”
Tautua‘a is the featured student-athlete in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Waianae is now 5-0 in OIA West play after a win over Leilehua on Monday. Even Top 10 voters scarcely know about the Seariders, who garnered exactly one point in the poll this week.
Shy by nature, but “feisty” on the court in the eyes of teammate Nico Clarke, Tautua‘a has a 3.8 grade-point average. When she’s not studying or practicing at Waianae, she trains at Spike and Serve volleyball club with her younger twin brothers, Francis and Richard. The twins are 11 and already 5 feet, 9 inches tall.
“They play volleyball and basketball. They train at Spike and Serve with me and play on the 12s team,” she said.
In all, four Seariders are part of the SAS club squad: Lele Krug, a 5-10 junior opposite; Larrynn Joseph-Rodrigues, a 5-11 sophomore outside hitter; Clarke, a 6-foot senior outside hitter; and Tautua‘a,
Junior Leciel Kepo‘o-Caspino and senior Maile Richardson are in the middle.
“I think we’ll be fine attack-wise. We just have to work on our passing. We can run a good offense. Every single one can hit,” Tautua‘a said. “It’s getting better since the first days of practice.”
After years of training, she can touch 10 feet, 2 inches. A few more inches and she’ll be dunking basketballs, which has crossed her mind a time or two. Tautua‘a has the scholarship offer to Pitt and an invitation to try out for the US national team. She also has a bit of a fuzzy dream — to play basketball for Waianae along with a few of her volleyball teammates.
The last time an all-state level volleyball player considered crossing over to play basketball — something that used to be common and is extremely rare today — it was Saige Ka‘aha‘aina-Torres of ‘Iolani. She went out for basketball as a senior in the 2016-17 season and seemed on the brink of becoming a monster rebounder and defender for an otherwise smallish and skilled Raiders squad. A minor injury, however, cut that idea short, and she stuck with volleyball, matriculating to Utah a few months later.
Tautua‘a has not played organized basketball since she was “5 or 6,” she says. It’s not something she has discussed with her father just yet. From his perspective, the risk is too high.
Volleyball, though, is the heart of her dreams. Coach Ka‘ena Keiki, Waianae’s first-year head coach, left Roosevelt after a decade for a chance to guide the girls volleyball program at his alma mater.
“She reminds me of this one boy who graduated from Waianae in 2009, Anthony Robinson. I played with him. They’re not loud, in your face, not going to scream at you on the court. They lead by example,” Keiki said. “He was one of the best all-around athletes out of Waianae on the boys side. Haiti and him, both tall, physically strong, not loud. They don’t wear their emotions on their face. No matter if they’re winning or losing, they have the same look. They don’t talk to bring you down, they talk to bring you up.”
Older sister Heipua Tautua‘a plays at San Diego State. The sisters played together at SAS, and that’s where the connection to college coaches got a jolt.
“My sister, Heipua, she was always my idol. She’s a good sister. I’m the mean one, but she still loves me,” Tautua‘a said.
Haiti Tautua‘a’s lockdown staples
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “I like the Avengers movies. I like ‘Iron Man.’ “
2. Hair and makeup videos (YouTube).
3. Mukbeng videos (YouTube).
“They’re eating anything. It could be fast food.”
Top 3 food/drink/snacks
“Home cooked. My mom (Brandy) makes it. She puts cheese on top. She makes it once a week. Me and my brothers love that.”
2. Musubi (7-Eleven).
“I like the regular Spam musubi.”
3. Jamba Juice smoothie.
“I like Strawberry Dream. I make smoothies at home. I can make a (version of) Peanut Butter Mood. I searched it up.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Ariana Grande – “Rain on Me” (with Lady Gaga).
2. Dua Lipa – “Cold Heart.”
3. Jonas Brothers (and Marshmello) – “Leave Before You Love Me”
“I just heard the song on the radio.”
Favorite class: Photography.
“Taking pictures is fun. We pose each other.”
Favorite teacher: “We have to say a name? I love them all.”
College major: “I’m thinking about photography or some kind of media.”
New life skill: “I got more organized. We cleaned a lot.”
Hidden talent: “I like to bake.”
“Chocolate chip cookies. I like the pre-made one. It’s 15 to 20 minutes in the oven. No milk. I don’t like milk. I like brownies, especially with walnuts. My whole family loves it.”
Homemade lollipops: “I wasn’t the one who makes them. My teammate (Tiana Dela Cruz) makes them and brings it to practice almost once a week. I’m one of eats them. She sells them at school and gives us the extras for free. Our coach brings Gushers, and we’re always fighting over the boxes.”
Time machine: “I would go backwards to when my grandpa was alive (Uhila Tautua‘a). I was a lot younger. I would tell him about all my success in life, everything that’s happening with volleyball and college.”
“Shout out to both my parents for sacrificing everything. I love them so much. My No. 1 fan, her name is Auntie Hoku (Kaeo-Fatokun). My grandma Momi (Kahalekai). Just tell her I love her. Uncle Bubba (Kahalekai-Willing) and his auntie Donna. My cousin Anna (Kahalekai-Willing). My other aunties, Kanoe (Kahalekai-Willing) and Tehani (Kahalekai-Willing). My cousins, Lejolie (Kaeo) and Minsaa (Fatokun). My sister, Heipua. She was always my idol. She’s a good sister. I’m the mean one, but she still loves me. My twin brothers, Francis and Richard. And shout out to my club coach, Kevin Wong. I’ve learned to have confidence in myself. I’ve struggled with that and confidence affects my playing.”