Rainbow Warriors’ Todd making most of his chance

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HONOLULU — Alaka’i Todd’s relationship with Charlie Wade goes back to the days he would see the Hawaii head volleyball coach walking his dogs in Kailua.

It continued at 15 years old when he joined A’o A Koa Volleyball Club, where he was coached by a bunch of active UH volleyball players, including current assistant coach Kupono Fey and Pat Gasman, who was a teammate of Todd’s his first three years in the program.


His UH career began five seasons ago, before the pandemic and before the back-to-back national championships.

Todd has had a front-row view for Hawaii’s incredible run to four consecutive NCAA national finals, but it doesn’t beat the view he has now — on the court.

“As much as I love clapping on the side of the bench and cheering my teammates on, it’s definitely a different feeling being on the court and playing in front of the people,” Todd said Wednesday. “Especially with the body of work you’ve put in throughout these many years to get on the court and contribute to the team in a significant way.”

Entering the next two matches against Tusculum tonight and Sunday at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, Todd has already started more matches this year than in the previous five seasons combined.

He’s matched or surpassed his previous highs for a season in kills, digs, solo blocks and aces, among other stats.

Todd made sure to point out he’s not content with where he is seven games into the season, but does feel rewarded after a long five-year wait that included his hardest offseason yet heading into his senior year.

“Took it very serious. I was working out every single day, sometimes multiples times a day,” Todd said. “I played tons of beach volleyball, a ton of open gyms indoor trying to hit higher, harder and inbounds more often. That’s what Charlie emphasizes. Hit the ball as hard as you can, as inbounds as you can and as high as you can.”

Part of Todd’s lengthy wait to see consistent time on the court is the talent that has been around him.

Including his freshman year that he redshirted in 2019, Hawaii is a staggering 122-14.

It’s tough to complain when the team is having so much success, but there was an understandable desire to see more time on the court that even his coach could sense was frustrating at times.

“I”m sure there were times he couldn’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Wade said. “It’s a long time to keep grinding, you know, and great to see him get out there and play, and not only play but play well at a high level, and that’s exciting for everyone.”

Hawaii is coming off a 3-0 record on its first road trip of the season. Todd had double-digit kills in all three matches, including a career-high 16 in Friday’s sweep of Purdue Fort Wayne.

He hit better than .500 in two of the three matches and has served at least one ace in every match he’s played so far.

Tusculum (1-6), a Division II school in Greeneville, Tenn., is one of two first-time opponents on the UH schedule this season.

The Pioneers, who started a men’s volleyball program in 2020, have never defeated a nationally ranked opponent.

Hawaii, which has won 31 consecutive matches in February dating back to 2019, is still trying to work out integrating many of the new players onto the floor with the key returnees.

“It’s a balance for us right now in seeing how some of the new guys are going to be able to help us throughout the year,” Wade said. “There is a level of load management, especially in a week like this with a Friday-Sunday and then a Wednesday start. We’re certainly mindful of the amount of jumps we’re going to have from our main guys, so from that standpoint you will see some other guys.”

Wade mentioned that Keoni Thiim and Louis Sakanoko, who have both been in and out of the starting lineup, will get to play, as well as backup setter Kevin Kauling.

Alex Parks, a redshirt freshman middle blocker from Maryknoll, is another player Wade said he’d like to see get some floor time.

Parks made his UH debut in a match against Emmanuel and had a kill, an ace and two block assists in one set.

“He’s been doing a great job blocking,” Wade said. “I think it’s likely he gets out and he gets to play a little bit.”

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