HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This year there will be two former Rainbow Wahine All-Americans on the UH women's volleyball coaching staff. Robyn Ah-Mow Santos and Angelica Ljungqvist are returning to Manoa this season as colleagues, with Ah Mow-Santos at the helm for the Wahine and Ljungqvist serving as an assistant coach. And they bring with them a unique relationship. Before they were colleagues, the two were teammates, meeting for the first time more than 20 years ago as members of the UH women's volleyball team.
"We always had that very special connection on the court in the gym," said Ljungqvist about Ah Mow Santos. "But [we also had] a very solid friendship off the court."
Their friendship was evident on the court. With Ah Mow-Santos setting Ljungqvist, who was a middle blocker for UH, the two helped the Wahine to a runner up finish at the 1996 NCAA National Championship, and both earned All-Americans honors during their careers in Manoa.
"When she came in we just connected," said Ah Mow-Santos, reflecting on her first meeting with Ljungqvist back in the early 90's when they became teammates. "I don't know... On the court we just saw the same, we just thought the same. Off the court she would come to my house and eat. She's an adopted daughter to my parents. We just took her in."
Ah Mow-Santos' family didn't just open their home to the six-foot three-inch Swedish national. They also helped the Scandinavian adjust to the culture shock of moving from Europe to Hawaii.
"At first, looking at char siu chicken she's like, 'That's red are we going to eat that? Is it cooked?' I was like, 'Yea it's cooked. Just try it.'" Ah Mow-Santos recalled her first time introducing Ljungqvist to local food. "Some people that come in as foreigners, they don't like all of that - the spam musubis - she loves spam musubis. She worked her way right in."
In the decades that followed their time at UH, the friendship that was forged by Rainbow Wahine volleyball, spam musubi's, and a general love for Hawaii, remained in tact thanks in part to Facebook. While on separate continents, through career changes, and decades later the two used the social media site to stay in-touch.
Eventually, after applications opened for the head coaching job with the Rainbow Wahine, Ah Mow-Santos says she used the site to ask Ljungqvist if she'd join her on staff in Manoa..
"I instant messaged her, tried to call her. I was like 'Yea I was calling cause I put in for the job, and if I get it do you want to come?'"
According to Ah Mow-Santos, Ljungqvist thought she was joking at first. But soon after agreed to return to the Rainbow Wahine on her former teammate's coaching staff.