Former Kamehameha alun Haunga, it’s as easy as 1-2-3 at UNLV
On a typical Las Vegas scorching Sunday, Hevani Haunga enjoyed one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments for the UNLV football team against UC San Diego, for an overtime victory at home.
The 2018 Kamehameha graduate scored three goals, each better and bigger than the previous score, to register the program’s seventh hat trick and her first in a 3-2 victory at Peter Johann Memorial Field.
The 5-foot-6 junior forward scored the game-winning goal five minutes into the start of overtime, her second overtime winner. She also scored a golden goal to beat No. 1 San Diego State 3-2 at home last spring.
After the Tritons (0-2-1) scored in the 12th minute, Haunga came off the bench and equalized in the 34th minute for the Rebels (3-1). UCSD regained the lead in the 55th minute, but with 15 minutes remaining, Haunga equalized again.
In the 95th minute, Haunga found a streak from Lourdes Bosch, who passed the ball back, and Haunga fired a shot in the left corner for the match winner.
“It was crazy, out and back and super cool,” she said. “This has never happened to me before. I don’t remember if I ever did a hat trick at BIIF. It was exciting. I just wanted to win.
“I was in the right place at the right time. I saw the crosses and took advantage of the opportunities. It was cool for me and a lot of fun.
Haunga leads the team with three goals and now has six in his career, after two goals in the sophomore year.
She fell in love with the school during a visit and enjoyed the culture. It helps that UNLV has a short plane ride home.
“I came to visit and spoke to a lot of players and I chose the school because of the culture,” she said. “There is no drama, everyone is inclusive and it’s diverse. We have people from all over. It is not snowing here. I don’t like snow. I have family in Utah and have been in the snow so there was no way I was going to college with snow.
UNLV has no snow, quite the contrary. There is 100 degree heat which feels like an overheated sauna without the fun.
“Right now it’s very hot, 100 to 115 degrees, and it’s a dry heat,” Haunga said. “When I got here it was tough, but the more you train, the more you get used to it. We don’t think about it. Everyone dies from the heat, and we’re like, “Yeah, this is where we play. We use it to our advantage.
For those wondering, Haunga’s first name, Hevanilea, is a conversation starter.
“People are always asking questions about it. They have never heard it before and find it difficult to pronounce it, ”she said. “Hevanilea is Tongan and from my dad, who migrated from Tonga. He is 100 percent Tongan. It means the voice of heaven.
Bronson and Nalani Haunga’s daughter has a smart head on her shoulders. She is doubly specialized in accounting and finance. She wants to become a CPA and eventually work for one of the Big Four accounting firms: Deloitte, Ernest & Young, PwC or KPMG, the acronymless hat that golfer Phil Mickelson still wears.
“I interned at a small business in the spring and later at EY’s Vegas law firm,” Haunga said. “I took an accounting class, and it clicked for me. I joined a club, and it snowballed from there.
Besides its name, the second most asked question in Haunga is: do you gamble in Las Vegas?
“It’s not allowed,” she said. “Everyone asks me. It stinks of cigarette smoke, and it’s not a good environment.
There are three other girls from Hawaii, including 2019 Kamehameha graduate and former teammate Kaila Ambrosio, who is a second year defenseman in a red shirt. They’re all on the ground floor of a reconstruction of the Mountain West Conference, where Boise State is the big dog and UNLV is the doormat. In 2019, the Broncos finished 18-5 and the Rebels finished worse 6-13-1.
That’s why Haunga’s hat trick, including his second career gold goal, was so huge. This gives the Rebels a boost to build on the big money invested in football to keep up with the arms race for the new facilities.
The 73,000-square-foot Fertitta football complex opened in 2019, and last year the Rebels started playing at Allegiant Stadium, where they roommate with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Fertitta brothers are the former owners of the UFC, which they sold in 2016 for $ 4 billion. (Brother Fertitta shelled out over $ 10 of the complex’s $ 22 million cost.)
So Rebels never have to worry about kicking old soccer balls or wearing old Nike shoes or warm-up gear. These are the perks of a Division I program boosted by former billionaires.
“We were all in the same building, but the football team moved. We have more space and more training room, ”said Haunga. “Everything has been updated. Upstairs we have the pedagogical advisers and all the coaches are up there. We have study rooms and computers.
“Football gets the most things. They play at Allegiant Stadium with the Raiders, but we have everything we need. We get nice shoes. We are Nike. Every sport is Nike. The school has an agreement with Nike.
The local girl in Haunga knows there’s one thing she can’t put a price on.
“I miss home-cooked Hawaiian cuisine,” she said. “Squid luau and kalua pig. It’s not the same if I do. And the blow. I’m afraid to try to sting here. But my teammates love Musubi Spam. They love it, and we still do.
“What I like the most are the people and the team. It’s a good environment, our style, our culture, the technical staff. It’s a family team and we support each other.