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Freshman infielder takes MEAC by storm in collegiate season debut

NORFOLK, VA — Kenna Higa possesses a competitive spirit that makes her a force to be reckoned with on the softball diamond. Having collected six conference awards in her debut season at Norfolk State University, the Honolulu, Hawaii native’s path to a collegiate career on the East Coast is marked by the competition that drove her. 

The youngest of three children, Higa grew up battling her two older siblings–especially her brother, Zach–in any sport she could. Her father, Ward, encouraged the friendly sibling rivalries, upping the ante by offering the winner of a given competition a cash prize. He would promise Kenna a few extra dollars if she could overtake her older brother. 

Higa’s contests with her brother were not her only experience going toe-to-toe with boys. She fell in love with baseball long before she picked up a softball. Higa started playing baseball at four years old and stuck with the sport until she was the only girl left on the sign-up sheet. 

“Playing with boys, there was a lot of competition. You want to beat all the boys. That was my goal all of the time,” Higa said. 

With her father’s encouragement, she reluctantly switched to softball at the age of nine. 

“I would always say that baseball was my first love, but then once I got into softball it really stuck.”

Higa’s father carries knowledge from his baseball background, and the pastimes they shared during her childhood heightened her softball IQ. During car rides, Higa’s father would quiz her on game situations and how to respond to specific scenarios in the field. 

In her freshman season at Norfolk State, Higa has captured five Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Rookie of the Week Awards and one MEAC Player of the Week award. Though her success may not surprise those who know her, the freshman third baseman was initially stunned by her meteoric success. When she first entered the softball program at NSU, she expected to see just a few innings of action in her first year. 

“In high school, it was put in my head, like, ‘Oh, you’re a freshman. You’re not gonna start. You’re not even going to touch the field,’” she said. “So when I was coming here, I was like, okay, I’m just gonna grind it out. I’m going to try my best as a freshman, and I’m gonna try and get on the field if it’s possible. If not, then I understand, and it is what it is.”

Her expectations were vastly exceeded, as she’s made 44 starts in the 2022 season thus far, tallying 40 hits, 41 RBI, and eight home runs. As MEAC regular season play winds down, Higa has her sights set on the greatest conference prize. 

“I hope we win MEACs. Honestly, I’m feigning for that,” she laughed. “But overall, I just hope that we get better as a team. Throughout the season, I can see the changes that we’ve all made to gel better together and start working better together, and I’m hoping that we can keep that going and maybe get to (NCAA) regionals.”

Despite her success, Higa remains humbly grateful for every opportunity to assist her team.

“I just try to play,” she said. “Every time I step on the field, I’m just there for my team and for my family. I play for them, and I guess the accolades are nice, but it’s really the love for softball and my teammates that helps me succeed.”