Chaminade 1st in Hawaii to Allow Fans Back Into Home Games


Gavin Bedoya

Lataisia Saulala going up for the kill as the Chaminade women’s volleyball team squared off against HPU with 72 fans in attendance at McCabe Gym Wednesday night.

For 594 days, the state of Hawaii has prohibited fans from attending any games due to the mandates Gov. David Ige has enforced to protect the spread of the Covid-19. On Wednesday, the Chaminade women’s volleyball team became the first sports collegiate program in Hawaii to allow fans to watch games in person.

For the first time in nearly one-and-a-half years, Chaminade took the court against Hawaii Pacific University in front of home fans. A total of 72 spectators attended the long-awaited match at McCabe Gym. As the semester moves forward, Athletic Director Tom Buning hopes that this is only the beginning of bringing back CUH fans to future home games for all other sports this school year.

“This is such an exciting moment for me to see just our loving fans back cheering on our women’s volleyball team,” said Buning, the 10th athletic director to run Chaminade Athletics. “It’s been such a long time since we have had such a crowd back at McCabe Gym. With following the guidelines we have been given by the state and CDC, we hope that we can safety bring more fans into our home games this year.”

“There is also some sort of pride being the first ones to allow fans in the state of Hawaii, and we look to continue moving forward in brining in more fans this upcoming spring semester,” said Buning.

Chaminade rolled past intra-city rival Hawaii Pacific University 3-0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-20) on Wednesday. Junior hitters Brooklen Pe’a and Marchelle Butler both finished with a match-high 11 kills each, and libero Anna Dalla Vecchia recorded 19 digs. CUH improved to 19-4 overall and 9-2 in PacWest play. The Swords spent some time ranked 24th in the country but fell just out of the Top 25 to 26th this week.

What seem to be 72 fans sounded like a full sellout crowd at McCabe Gym. The crowd was into it from the very first serve to match point.

One of the fans in attendance Wednesday’s match against HPU was Dr. Lynn Babington, president of Chaminade University. She mentioned about how the Chaminade faithful have shown so much energy from the very the start of the game and that she hopes to see this energy carry over to the other sports this upcoming year.

“You know, I could hardly hear myself think at times just hearing the roaring support of our local fans here at Chaminade,” said Babington, who is also the 10th president of Chaminade University. “It has been such a journey to get to this point that we are in now, but I am just so happy for this school and this fanbase of ours to finally be reunited here tonight supporting our women’s volleyball team.”

Also in the stands was the Chaminade men’s basketball team and head coach Eric Bovaird and Dean of Students Allison Jerome.

As the Swords took on HPU Wednesday night, this past week the players and coaches have dedicated their games to those that have survived breast cancer. All players on the CUH women’s volleyball team wore pink jerseys for their game to honor those that have been going through the struggles of fighting against breast cancer, and there were some breast cancer survivors in attendance, said coach Kahala Kabalis-Hoke.

“We are so excited to have our fans back at our games, but just having the opportunity tonight to be playing in-front of those brave women that have survived breast cancer is such a great honor,” said Kabalis-Hoke, who is the first head coach in program history to lead Chaminade to back-to-back 20 win seasons. “I’m sure our players and other athletes in this program are also thrilled that they can now play in-front of our beloved fans here at Chaminade, and we look forward to seeing them all at our future home games this year.”

Starting setter for the silverswords Alexia Byrnes spoke about how her teammates felt about the return of fans at their home games. The graduate transfer from Youngstown State hopes that larger turnouts can be a part of future plans as Hawaii seeks to return back to normal.

“Our girls were just so energized to see our fans back supporting us during [Wednesday’s] match against HPU, and we are all looking forward to seeing more fans be a part of our future games as the season moves forward,” said Byrnes, a Chicago native.

In order to attend future home matches, reach out to the Chaminade women’s volleyball Instagram page @chaminade_volleyball to request tickets. The Silverswords have a three-match road trip through California next week before returning home against Fresno Pacific on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. in McCabe Gym.