Most collegiate athletes’ lives are dedicated to their sport, but for two of BYU-Hawaii’s starting players on the women’s volleyball team, being a mom matters much more.
“We really want to be moms first,” said Leilani Adolpho, a mother of three from Hauula majoring in exercise science secondary education.
“The things we as moms have to do, it’s crazy, but we do the crazy things to make it work because we really love our families and we love volleyball.”
Because of the grueling schedule of college sports, it is incredibly rare for a single member of a collegiate women’s volleyball team to be a mom, let alone two. But for Adolpho and Lacy Lange, a senior right side hitter from Nevada majoring in elementary education, it is part of the beauty of playing volleyball at BYUH.
“People on other teams find out we’re married and freak out,” said Lange, who just had her first child in December of last year. “They find out we’re moms and they’re like, ‘What!?’”
Adolpho added, “We joke about it sometimes, but we literally think BYUH is the only place where you can have moms on a team and have it be a family environment.”
Both women said their husbands help to make it possible to play collegiate volleyball and be moms at the same time.
Adopho said, “I really wouldn’t be able to do this without my husband and my family, because my husband works the night shift helping the kids with homework and making dinners while I practice, and then I take the mornings on, getting the kids ready to go to school. I’m just blessed and grateful for the husband I have who loves and supports me in doing something I love.”
Both ladies were adamant that without their husbands, their dreams of playing volleyball at this time in their lives would not be possible. Both husbands played or currently participate in collegiate athletics, one of the many things the two share in common. Adolpho’s husband, Kaena Adolpho, played football at New Mexico State. Lange’s husband, Corey Lange, is currently a shooting guard on the Seasiders men’s basketball team.
“We like our husbands’ competitive edge,” joked Adolpho.
Lange pointed out, “It helps that Corey is also on an athletic team here because he understands. He loves basketball and has a passion for the game and so he knows and understands better than anyone my love for volleyball.”
They said Head Coach Mona Ah-Hoy also played a key role in making the possibility of being a mother and a volleyball player simultaneously a reality. Ah-Hoy was once in their same shoes herself.
“As a former student-athlete mom, I understand that trying to balance school, athletics, and being a mom can be tiring and challenging,” said Ah-Hoy. “Our team has a great admiration towards Leilani and Lacy and are very supportive. I personally have so much admiration for my student-athlete moms. To be able to juggle a life of being a student, athlete, and mother, I’m sure they would not have it any other way.”
Both athletes said Ah-Hoy’s experience and understanding makes them feel their motherhood is seen as a strength and not as a burden. Ah-Hoy said she actually feels her player moms have an added balance to their lives and an extra drive to work for their children. “There is something about female athletes who return to sports after giving birth,” said Ah-Hoy. “They tend to come back with a new drive, energy, and maturity.”
On a recent team road trip to California for a volleyball tournament, Lange was unsure how her husband would be able to handle his fatherly duties plus school and basketball practice all on his own.
“Coach Mona offered to let me bring Braelyn on our team’s road trips because she knows what it is like to be away from your kids, and she knows what it would be like for my husband to watch her on his own,” said Lange.
Additionally, it was Ah-Hoy who invited Adolpho to get back into collegiate volleyball after five years of full-time motherhood. And it was Ah-Hoy’s personal experience that made Adolpho feel comfortable with making the leap back into college-level volleyball.
“We like that our coach can relate to us because she knows what it’s like to have a kid and play college sports,” said Adolpho. “She is sympathetic to us because she understands we are moms. We’re tired. We’re busy. Sometimes things won’t be perfect.”
However, both moms made it clear although it is a surreal and amazing experience to play for the Seasiders, it is not always the easiest. Balancing family with an education and collegiate athletics takes a lot of energy and makes both of them question their sanity every once in awhile.
“When I get home I’m like, ‘Why am I even in school right now? Why am I in volleyball?’ I just want to be a mom,’”confessed Lange.
Adolpho agreed and offered, “The hardest part is time away from family, because as a mom even after practice it never ends. You just have to go because if you stop, then you think, ‘Oh, look at everything I have to do,’ but you just got to keep going.”
During the tough times, Lange and Adolpho depend on their family for the motivation and support to continue to push forward in their practices, studies, and home life.
Adolpho said, “That’s one thing that keeps me up at night when I get home from practice and I just want to go to sleep. I think ‘If I finish my homework now, then I will have the whole weekend to be with my kids.’ So that’s what literally makes me go, ‘Okay, you have to do this now so you can have time.’ Otherwise, I wouldn’t have any time on the weekends for my family.”
Lange added when she is at practice she usually thinks, “I better make this practice worth it if I’m going to be spending time here at the gym when I could be with my family. If I’m already here, then I might as well give it my all.”
For those who are struggling to achieve their educational or career goals, or to those struggling with challenges that seem unconquerable, both Lange and Adolpho said to remember in the end it will all be worth it.
Adolpho said sometimes after a difficult practice, “I come home, and I’m so frustrated, and I’m crying to my husband.” But Adolpho said he reminds her she is doing this for her family. This motivates her to “just work harder and take one day at a time, and it will pay off in the end.”
Lange agreed with Adolpho. Keeping the end in mind can give perspective during the rough times. She emphasized it is okay to rely on others.
“My little sister just moved out here to help watch our daughter,” Lange said. Her sister sacrificed a lot to move to Laie, Lange said, but her help makes a difference. “I know I couldn’t do it without her, without my family, and without my husband.”
Both women look forward to a time when they can be full-time moms. But they said the lessons they are learning now from pursuing their passion to play volleyball will be worth it, not only for them, but also for their families.
Adolpho concluded, “I want to set that example for my children that no matter what, even when you are however old and three kids later, you can still do something you love and be good at it.”
Lacy Lange, a senior from Las Vegas majoring in elementary education, is married to Casey Lange. Their daughter, Braelyn, is 10 months old.
Lange began honing her volleyball skills at a young age. Her father played volleyball at the collegiate level and his skills were not lost on Lange.
“My dad coached volleyball all while I was growing up so I practiced with his teams, but I didn’t officially start playing with a team until I was 12.”
As a standout high school volleyball player, making first team all-conference and being voted team MVP, Lange knew she would receive an offer to play volleyball in college but wasn’t sure where to go.
“I was a senior in high school and I had already ruled out BYU-Hawaii because of the dorms. But one morning I woke up late in my senior year and said, ‘I want to go to BYUH.’ So my dad sent my film to a coach here he knew, and the next day they offered me a scholarship.”
After a year in the program, Lange started to settle in and began dating her future husband.
“Corey and I met my sophomore year here. We met through the Athletic Department since he was playing basketball. We talked for the first time in the training room, but we didn’t really officially start talking until the library and we hit it off. You know what they say: The rest is history.”
Leilani Adolpho, a junior in exercise science elementary education who attended Kahuku High School, is married to Kaena Adolpho. They live in Hauula with their three children: two daughters, Aleija (6) and Bria (3), and son Keoni( 5).
“I started playing volleyball for the first time when I was 8,” Adolpho said. “I learned on the beach and on grass courts because back then we couldn’t afford to get gym time, and then for the tournaments we would play on actual courts.”
Adolpho carried on the proud tradition of elite volleyball talent at Kahuku High when she was named to the Oahu Interscholastic Association Second Team Eastern Division I during her senior year. She received and accepted a scholarship offer from NCAA Division I Wright State University in Ohio.
“I played there for one year and then I came back home to Laie,” Adolpho said. “My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We dated long distance when I left to play volleyball in Ohio. He was playing football at New Mexico State and I was at Wright State, but then we both came back and got married and had three kids.”
After they started their family, Adolpho said she never expected to play volleyball on the collegiate level again. “It had been over five years, and I had barely touched a ball. But then I ran into Coach Mona and she invited me to come back to try and play volleyball, and my husband said, ‘Yeah, why don’t you go?’ My response was, ‘Because I haven’t touched a ball in five years and I have three kids.’ But I went and tried out,” she said.
Teammate Lacy Lange joked, “On her first day back, she was lifting three times more than any of the other returning players.”
Adolpho gives the credit to her Crossfit training, one of her hobbies listed on her roster profile on the BYUH Athletics page.
“I kept going to practices and no one had said I was cut,” said Adolpho. “Then Coach Mona offered me a scholarship, and since then I’ve been blessed to play these two seasons.”