Kealakehe’s loss is Makua Lani’s gain.
Tiny Makua Lani Christian Academy, a private school in Kailua-Kona, has officially welcomed Kahinu Lee to become co-head coach in boys volleyball. With an enrollment of less than 300 students, the Lions were 13-5 overall last season, winning the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II title with an unbeaten mark. They placed fifth in the New City Nissan/HHSAA State Championships.
Ryenn Sotelo will remain as co-head coach with Lee. The two are longtime friends, and Sotelo expressed a desire to bring Lee in when Kealakehe released Lee as its head coach earlier this year. Lee played at Konawaena, where he was the BIIF player of the year, then at Hawaii. He has coached for decades, first under his father, Sam Lee Sr., before becoming a head coach.
“Basically, Kahinu is in charge of everything (at Makua Lani) to do with the whole volleyball aspect. Practices, lineups, everything to do in game situations,” Sotelo said.
Makua Lani will have a trip to Oahu as part of its preseason schedule.
“We’re going to the Kamehameha tournament and the ‘Iolani Invitational,” Sotelo said. “That’s because of who Kahinu is. He gets invited by other coaches.”
The Lions had 18 players at a team meeting recently.
“Last year, I barely had 12 kids who signed up up and this year it’s 18. The majority came to the meeting. We do have a program that’s sustainable,” Sotelo said. “A lot of coaches want to get paid and Makua Lani you do it for the love of the game.”
Sotelo is hoping that the roster remains intact. Libero Jeremiah Hernandez, setter Timani Moniati, OH Laukoa Freuan and OH TJ Heath are among their returning starters. All-BIIF D-II player of the year Kaipono Benson, and older brother Hoku Benson, an All-BIIF outside hitter, are one of the top setter/outside hitter duos in the state. However, Sotelo said they’re still debating a possible move to Kealakehe, which plays in D-I.
Among the newcomers is a libero who moved here from South Korea.
“He’s been working out with Missy (Yomes),” Sotelo said, referring to the former Hawaii player, who is also his aunt and former assistant coach.
The future in any circumstance is promising. The Lions will have a junior varsity team that includes seven freshman, Sotelo said.