Senior Kaimi Rocha leaves strong legacy

Pirates senior outside hitter led conference in multiple offensive categories

Whitworth head volleyball coach Steve Rupe said that senior Kaimi Rocha might be the hardest-working player he has coached in his 14 years at Whitworth.

“When we talked about [how] it’s time to work hard and practice hard; she was always working hardest and practicing hardest,” Rupe said. “There was never an off day for her.”

Despite being described as friendly, fun, happy and approachable, the 5-foot-9 outside hitter is a monster on the volleyball court.

Her humility disguises the fact that she has earned back-to-back Northwest Conference Player of the Year awards, has been selected twice to First Team All-West Region and was most recently honored this season as Second Team All-American.

“She was our go-to person,” Rupe said. “Everybody in the conference knew it and they still couldn’t stop her. She was heads and tails above everybody else.”

At one point this year, she was named Division III Volleyball Player of the Week — a national recognition. She led the NWC points per set, kills per set and total kills in her senior season for Whitworth.

It is for those reasons that Kaimi Rocha has been named the Female Athlete of the Year by The Whitworthian sports section staff.

Rocha has her twin sister and teammate, Ka’ipo Rocha, to thank for spurring her competitive drive and love for volleyball.  At age 11, the highly athletic Rocha twins started playing volleyball. Ka’ipo stuck with it, while Kaimi sat on the sidelines for a few months after deciding she didn’t like volleyball. That changed quickly.

“When she saw me get good she decided she wanted to get good too,” Ka’ipo — or “Eeep”, as her sister affectionately calls her on the court — said. “She’s very competitive.”

The Rocha sisters’ chemistry is unique and will be missed by Whitworth volleyball.

“I’ve had some great, great young ladies come through my program,” Rupe said. “But [Kaimi and Ka’ipo], I miss a lot of people, but I’m really going to miss them.”

Overshadowing Kaimi Rocha’s highly driven spirit is her surreal selflessness.

“The best part about Kaimi is she’s selfless,” said Bree Riddle, senior setter and teammate. “She’s never attention oriented. She’s always putting her attention back on the team.”

Likewise, Kaimi Rocha is as dedicated as they come. Ka’ipo Rocha laughed when she recalled how Kaimi likes to remind Ka’ipo that Kaimi never missed a practice in four years of playing.

“Which is hard because I’ve missed a bunch,” Ka’ipo Rocha said. “I’m proud of her work ethic.”

Her incredible determination is one of the reasons why Kaimi Rocha is such an effective leader. Her teammates and coach all said she leads by example.

“She wasn’t going to give you some motivational words to get you going, but she worked hard and she didn’t stop,” Riddle said. “She made everyone better. Being a setter to Kaimi, I’d throw a ball out there that wasn’t even close to a perfect set and she’d kill it and say ‘great job’. I’d say ‘sorry’ and she’d say, ‘don’t worry about it.’”

In addition to her individual honors this season, Kaimi Rocha led the Bucs to their second straight conference title and an impressive 19-7 overall record. One of Rocha’s favorite memories of the year was beating Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound — both reputably strong NWC teams — back-to-back nights in the Fieldhouse.

“It was one of our goals to make that happen,” Kaimi Rocha said. “It was great at the end of the week to have met our goal.”

The team-first attitude and passion for the game of volleyball shines through Kaimi Rocha.

“I realize that when I play for the love of the game, I do my best and that’s been my driving force, [rather than] to just play because I get recognition or because I want a certain amount of kills,” Kaimi Rocha said. “I just play to be around my teammates and do well so our team can come out on top.”

Kaimi Rocha credits the Whitworth volleyball program and her coaches for teaching her to be more than a volleyball player. She said she has gained irreplaceable skills like time management, working under pressure and overcoming adversity.

“Each year, she’s gotten better as a player and a teammate and senior year she came in and was the captain we needed her to be,” Riddle said. “I’m proud of her for being female athlete of the year. She deserves it.”

After graduation, both Rocha sisters plan on moving back home to the island of Maui in Hawaii, and apply to nursing school together.

“She’s just a quality human being,” Rupe said of Kaimi Rocha. “She led by example. She worked harder than anybody else. She was kind of the whole deal; she had the whole package.”

 

Story by Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Photographer: Tanner Scholten

 

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu.

Volleyball vs. University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University

On Oct. 28 and 29, the Whitworth volleyball team traveled to Tacoma and split with two top Northwest Conference teams, the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University. “UPS and PLU are two really tough teams who always bring it,” sophomore outside hitter Abi Hedlund said. “They are games that we really look forward to every year.”

On Friday night the Pirates beat Puget Sound (8-5 in NWC) 25-22, 26-24, 25-16.

“We played one of our better matches of the season on Friday night,” Whitworth head coach Steve Rupe said. “It was a complete team effort with big plays being made by every starter.”

In the first set, sophomore middle blocker Kristine Kardell had five kills, senior outside hitter Kaimi Rocha had five kills, sophomore setter Jalana White had three kills, and senior setter Bree Riddle dished 11 assists. Whitworth hit .196, better than the opponent’s percentage of .180. However, the Loggers played evenly with the Pirates, matching the 15 kills in the first set.

Set two went into extra points after UPS tied the score 24-24, but Whitworth won the set on two consecutive points. Grumbach had four kills, Kaimi Rocha had three kills, White had three kills and senior outside hitter Ka’ipo Rocha had two kills.

“We played all together as one unit,” Hedlund said. “Which is what we really love to do.”

The Pirates finished the night right out of the locker room. Despite two close first matches, Whitworth was able to roll to a nine-point win in the final set after Kardell’s match-winning stuff block.

“Kristine had her best weekend so far this year,” Rupe said. “She was a major contributor offensively both nights.”

Friday night’s win over the Loggers was Whitworth’s second consecutive sweep over UPS this year.

“Whitworth volleyball hasn't swept [UPS] in both weekends for a very long time,”Riddle said. “It was a great accomplishment for this team.”

Riddle contributed 33 assists, while Grumbach contributed a match-high 19 digs and Kardell had 10 kills. The Pirates hit .197 overall with a total of 44 kills. Defensively, Whitworth shut down the Logger offense with 72 digs.

“We gave everything we could at UPS,” Riddle said. “We played great all the way around and we wanted the win.”

The Pirates continued action on Saturday against Pacific Lutheran University. The Lutes swept Whitworth 25-22, 26-24, 25-16.

“We had a big emotional game on Friday and fell a little flat against a very good PLU team that played their best match of the year,” Rupe said.

None of Whitworth’s players managed to hit in double figures. Meanwhile, PLU hammered the ball with a .333 hitting percent and 43 kills compared to Whitworth’s 33.

“They played a great game that pushed us back a little,” Riddle said.

Kaimi Rocha led her team with eight kills and 10 digs, Kardell contributed seve  kills, Grumbach had five kills and nine digs, and Riddle had 30 assists.

“The good news is, with the split we are still in first place,” Rupe said.

The Pirates face Lewis & Clark University on Nov. 4 for the chance at an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

“This last weekend was very good for us to learn how to bring emotion every night,” Rupe said.  “You can not have a let-down on any given night when you are in the tournament; otherwise you will lose and be done.”

The Pirates will host Lewis &Clark for senior night in the Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

 

By Corina Gebbers

Volleyball 10-22

Five hundred fifty-five fans attended last Saturday night’s volleyball game at the Fieldhouse to see Head Coach Steve Rupe clench his 200th win after his team went 2-0 Oct. 21 and 22 against visiting teams Linfield and Willamette. Just four games away from the end of Northwest Conference play, the Pirates are ranked 24th in NCAA Division III action and lead the conference with an 11-1 record. “Pressure’s on,” said sophomore middle blocker Kristine Kardell. “Two more wins next weekend and we will be conference champs. It's huge.”

To start the weekend, Whitworth beat Linfield 25-19, 25-19, and 25-17 on Friday night.

“As a team, we were so successful because we made aggressive moves to the ball, but made smooth, relaxed touches,” said junior libero Whitney Santos.

In the first set, Whitworth and Linfield shared the lead, tying the score six times before Whitworth finally pulled away when senior setter Bree Riddle set up senior outside hitter Ka’ipo Rocha for a kill to put the Pirates up 16-13.  Three kills by senior outside hitter Kaimi Rocha boosted Whitworth to a six-point win.

“We played at a consistent level throughout the whole match,” Santos said. “In the first game we struggled with communication on defense, but after making adjustments we were able to defend them even better.”

The Pirates ran away with set two, grasping a solid five-point lead from the start and extending that lead to 10 by the end of the set. Whitworth hit .542 with kills by Kaimi Rocha, senior outside hitter Amanda Grumbach and sophomore right side hitter Jalana White.

The Pirates trailed Linfield for the first 10 points of the final set, but Kardell energized the Whitworth offense with back-to-back kills, and the Pirates surged to an eight-point finish. After a 10-2 run, Whitworth led 17-12, finishing the set with 19 kills.

“We had some lulls,” Kardell said. “But they were just from a lack of communication. I would say the whole weekend was exactly what we wanted it to be.”

The Pirates pounded 50 kills to Linfield’s 31, holding the Wildcats to a .170 percentage on the night. White finished with eight kills and an overall hitting percentage of .583, Grumbach contributed seven kills and 12 digs, Kaimi Rocha had 15 kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had 10 kills and Santos led her team with 17 digs.

Whitworth continued the action on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse against Willamette, beating the Bearcats 25-23, 25-12, 25-19.

The Pirates struggled to pull away from Willamette in the first set but held on to win by two.  Kaimi Rocha had four kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had five kills and Grumbach had three kills.

The Pirates plundered the Bearcats in set two, leading by as many as 14. Whitworth hit .483 percent and held Willamette to just .069 percent. Kardell and Kaimi Rocha had four kills apiece while Riddle dished 14 assists and senior Jordon Hoffnagle contributed five straight serves midset to help the Pirates to a 12 point lead.

“The second game against Willamette was especially good for us,” Kardell said.

Whitworth finished the weekend with a quick third set, rolling over the Bearcats with a six-point win. Kaimi Rocha contributed five of her teams’ 15 third set kills while Ka’ipo Rocha had four kills and Riddle had 11 assists.

The Pirates hammered their opponents with 102 kills overall while holding Linfield and Willamette to just 60. Kaimi Rocha led her team with 28 kills, Ka’ipo Rocha had 20 kills, Grumbach contributed 15 kills, Santos had 27 digs and Riddle had 48 assists.

“I think we are the most unselfish team you will find,” Grumbach said. “It doesn't matter who gets the credit through the stats, we are all out there for each other.

Whitworth will travel to Tacoma next weekend, Oct. 28 and 29, to face Puget Sound University (8-4 NWC) and Pacific Lutheran University (9-3 NWC). Action will begin Friday night at 7 p.m. and continue Saturday night at 5 p.m.

 

Story By Corina Gebbers

Photo By Deidre Low

Volleyball keeps their No. 1 spot in NWC

Last weekend was key for Whitworth’s volleyball team as they hosted Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University, two top-ranked teams in the Northwest Conference. “Puget Sound and PLU have been top of the conference every year,” said senior middle blocker Ka’ipo Rocha. “We really want to beat them because we want to have a good grasp on first place.”

On Friday, the Pirates shut out Puget Sound 25-19, 25-17, 25-19.

“We had a good vibe from everyone,” Rocha said. “We didn’t feel too nervous.”

The Pirates took control from the start, setting each other up well and playing with confidence. Kills by sophomore Kristine Kardell and the Rocha sisters, plus a smart play by senior Bree Riddle boosted Whitworth through the first set.

Whitworth came out of the huddle on fire for set two. The Pirates took a quick lead and smoked the Loggers with consistent hitting and impenetrable defense. Kardell, Kaimi Rocha and senior Amanda Grumbach each contributed three kills in the second set to lead the team to an eight-point win.

The Loggers forced Whitworth to execute in the third set, taking advantage of every error and inconsistency. It was anybody’s set until a kill by senior Jordon Hoffnagle put the Pirates up 19-15. Whitworth was in control again from there, and ended the set on a kill by sophomore Jalana White.

“[The Pirates] came out really strong and stayed that way from the first point to the last point,” said Whitworth’s assistant coach Darcy McMurray. “Jalana and Kristine both had great matches and other girls stepped up and played really, really well.”

Hoffnagle led with 14 digs, while Kaimi Rocha had 10 kills. White, Kardell and Ka’ipo Rocha each finished with eight kills apiece.

On Friday Whitworth beat Pacific Lutheran University 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-20 and clinched the first place position in conference.

“We dominated, basically,” Hoffnagle said.

But the opening set was a test for the Pirates. After a slow start, Whitworth struggled to gain momentum. Head coach Steve Rupe called a timeout mid-set and the Pirates experienced a surge of energy, tying the score 15-15 and taking the lead at 20-19. But the Lutes fired back and won the set.

“This was just a huge match for us,” junior libero Whitney Santos said. Whenever you have a little nerves you get a little shaky sometimes.”

The Pirates pulled it together in the second set after two kills by Grumbach. Whitworth found their confidence, scoring four straight points and forcing the Lutes into a timeout. Whitworth set the pace from there. Kills by White, Grumbach and Kardell penetrated the tough Lute defense, and the Pirates won the set after a service error by Pacific Lutheran.

“We’re the kind of team that when we’re down we have a spirit and an energy that picks us up and we dominate,” Santos said.

Whitworth came out of the locker room ready to battle. The Lutes had a four-point lead mid-set, but the Pirates rallied back on kills by White, Grumbach and Kaimi Rocha. After a quick PLU timeout, the Pirates closed the set on kills by White and Ka’ipo Rocha.

Whitworth lead most of the fourth, but mid-set the Lutes scored six points to the Pirates’ one and evened out the score. With tough play on both sides, the set stayed close until the final point, but kills by Kaimi Rocha and digs by Grumbach shut down Pacific Lutheran.

“I think our defense played really amazing,” Santos said. “We had four players with double digit digs.”

Grumbach finished the night with 17 kills and 20 digs, Kaimi Rocha had 22 kills and 19 digs, Ka’ipo Rocha had 11 kills and Riddle dished out 56 assists.

“Last year we really had to fight [for conference],” Hoffnagle said. “This year we completely have control.”

The Pirates will host Whitman at 5 p.m. on Oct. 5, then the team will travel to Lewis & Clark on Oct. 7.

 

By Corina Gebbers

Photo By Greg Moser