The ball’s in Brilhante’s court at Pacific

  • Waiakea’s Maile Brilhante serves the ball in the first set of the girls BIIF championship on Saturday against Konawaena’s Tayvia Yamagata. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)

Maile Brilhante was surrounded by tennis all her life, and it’s no surprise she found that same comfortable, family atmosphere at University of Pacific.

To Rainbow Wahine volleyball fans, they remember the Tigers for their tough play in Big West matches back in the day.

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But the Waiakea graduate was attracted to Pacific because of coach Mike Erwin, who’s in his fourth year, and the environment at UOP, which is now in the West Coast Conference.

Brilhante will engage in annual WCC battle against teammate Kianna Oda, who signed with Gonzaga, a school famous for men’s basketball.

Pepperdine is the team to beat in the WCC, but maybe Brilhante and Oda can turn their programs around.

They’ve done it before.

The Warriors won the first of their three consecutive BIIF titles in 2017 when Brilhante, Oda, and Keilyn Kunimoto were freshmen.

Brilhante will major in biology and hopes to become a doctor. She also wants to leave a mark with Tigers tennis.

“My goals are to study and become a doctor and athletically represent my school through tennis,” she said.

Her brother Isaiah Brilhante did the same thing. He won a BIIF title in his senior year, went to Cornell, a Division I Ivy League school, and is in the process of becoming a dentist.

This was the year for Brilhante to change her BIIF resume. She was runner-up in doubles with Oda in 2017. Her sophomore and junior seasons she was BIIF runner-up in singles.

Like Isaiah, she’ll be a role model for her sophomore sister Jade, who won the BIIF doubles title with Maya Atwal in 2019.

“Having a family and a lot of tennis growing up helped me a lot because my brother and sister understood what I was going through and were always there for me on and off the court,” Brilhante said. “Kianna and Keilyn definitely helped push me throughout the years. Kianna is such a good friend, and I am so excited that she and I are in the same conference, and that I’ll be able to see her during the school year.”

Tennis has been a lifelong practice. Training, playing in tournaments during weekends and summers and constantly fine-tuning. But a Division I school was the goal, and she remembered former Warrior Sarah Dvorak, who went to Texas Tech.

“Division I has always been my top goal because growing up I always saw great tennis players like Sarah Dvorak and Alyssa Tobita go to D-I schools and I wanted to be like them,” Brilhante said.

In 2011 and ‘12, Mililani’s Tobita, a defensive-minded player who played at Oregon, defeated Dvorak to win the state title.

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Her path awaits at UOP, and Brilhante hopes the next crop of Warriors follow in her footsteps.

“I hope I was a good influence on the younger tennis players, and that they are able to believe in themselves,” she said. “I really appreciate everything the teachers did to make any type of graduation possible. They did an amazing job with the restrictions and obstacles that COVID caused, and I’m just grateful we were able to have anything at all.”

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