Wahine volleyball preview: Setter Kate Lang

Aug. 24—Kate Lang will always remember being part of the COVID-19 class of high school seniors who graduated at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Senior proms, graduations, the normal exciting send-off every kid hopes for growing up and going to school were all severely altered, or outright canceled.

It continued into college as her freshman season at the University of Hawaii, far away from her hometown of Keller, Texas, also went by the wayside.

At the time, there wasn't a whole lot of positivity to take away from the ordeal. But now, three years later, the returning Big West Setter of the Year and two-time, all-conference, first-team selection sees that entire ordeal as nothing but one big positive.

"At the time, it was really tough, and it didn't feel like there was much light at the end of the tunnel, but now there is. Now we're in the light," Lang said. "That year helped me grind, helped me find my college volleyball personality, and I got to know the team on a different level."

As the 5-foot-10 junior is quick to point out, she was "part of two separate offseasons in a year which has never happened in NCAA history."

Normally, a freshman comes in for the fall, gets in two weeks of two-a-day practices, and then the season begins.

The way this all happened, Lang had already developed a close bond with her teammates before ever stepping foot on the Stan Sheriff Center court to play a single match.

"As a freshman, you come in and you just get thrown into (the fire)," Lang said. "You don't have time to meet and greet and hang out with your teammates. I got to be a part of the team for a whole year before I was on the team to play and that's been a really cool opportunity that definitely helps me now."

There is a lot to be excited about for the UH women's volleyball team this year. Lang and second-year freshman Jackie Matias, who in her own way is off to a similar start as Lang by redshirting her first season, give Robyn Ah Mow options to tinker with on a squad deep in multiple positions.

As Lang surveys the court surrounded by "the closest team she's been on," all she sees are capable weapons that could make for an interesting offense to watch this year.

"Coach Robyn was talking the other day about how in 2019, Norene (Iosia) and Bailey (Choy) were setting and they had five options on the court. That's so cool," Lang said. "That's like a setters dream. I don't know if we're going to do that this year, but we could do it. Just having girls being able to rotate in and out of the court is so great and it's so fun for scouting also because teams aren't going to know what we do."

More options mean more decisions for Lang to make in the blink of an eye. She knows she has to constantly be aware of all the people around her on the court.

It's where that connection to the team that began with a year off can make a difference. It's also where a trip to Brazil a few months ago might pay dividends in a big way come this fall.

"We thought we were close before we went to Brazil and we came back and it was just a whole different understanding we have of each other," Lang said. "Everyone that went on the Brazil trip that have been my teammates the past three years, I know what they're thinking. It's weird. I'm in their head and being the setter, I think that's really important and made (Brazil) a really cool experience."