HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Rainbow Warrior volleyball team’s dream season didn't have the storybook ending that many Hawaii fans wanted.
From an NCAA-record set win-streak to a 25-0 start to the season with a Big West title to boot, 2019 was a banner year for the program.
But perhaps the most impressive part of Hawaii’s season didn’t happen on the court.
What the team was able to accomplish off the court in terms of rallying the local community and inspiring fans across the country will be this team’s legacy for years to come.
Most Hawaii fans that travelled to Long Beach for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Tournament this week flew over from the islands. That support from the Warrior faithful could be felt in and outside of the Walter Pyramid, from courtside seats to the makeshift parking lot tailgate before Saturday’s title game against Long Beach State even began.
While it’s never fair to compare one fan’s fandom to another in the stands, it’s clear to the naked eye which supporters go the extra mile to support their team.
In this team’s case, there is no better example than Ashley Banks and Jean Casseus, two New York natives with zero ties to the islands who fell in love with the ‘Bows over the past few months.
“They’re just an amazing team,” Banks said. “I love their spirit, love the Hawaii culture, they’re just a great team altogether. And their chemistry together is really amazing to watch.”
Inspired by his girlfriend’s newfound passion for Warrior volleyball, Casseus indulged himself into the team’s season, learning about what it meant to represent the state and the people of Hawaii.
Both Banks and Casseus were so inspired by this year’s team that they decided it was time to see them in person in Long Beach for the NCAA Tournament, well before it was even finalized that Hawaii was going to play in the tournament at all.
“I knew they were going to be in this tournament,” Banks said. “I was like, ‘They’re gonna be in it, we’re gonna buy a ticket and we’re gonna go, no matter what the outcome is.’”
“We booked our flight way ahead, before we even knew they were going to make it,” Casseus said. “We have to come here, we gotta take the trip, so we did.”
While the two New Yorkers didn’t get to see Hawaii win the national title this year, both of them are already thinking about 2020 - confident that the Warriors will be back in contention.
“I think next year they should be back,” Casseus said. “They’re gonna take it over, really.”