Lynden Keala’s experience has provided a boon to volleyball players on Oahu for years.
Wednesday’s recruits on letter-of-intent signing day included seven from Hana Hou Volleyball Club, coached by Keala and staff. In all, 23 women’s volleyball recruits signed at the ceremony hosted by Education 1st at the Honolulu Elks Lodge. Four of Hana Hou’s club players were at the signing ceremony: Vanessa Colling of Roosevelt (Odessa); Makenzie Fa‘amausili-Cacoulidis of Sacred Hearts (Missouri Southern State), Halie Hetzler of Le Jardin (Pacific Lutheran) and Megan Suka of Kaiser (Whitman). Other signees include Anuhea Kaohi of Kamehameha (Western Nebraska), Kaehukai Keala of Mid-Pacific (Eastern Washington) and Jordyn Nichols of Kamehameha (Arizona). Another, Kama Kekoolani, has been nominated by the Hawaii Congressional team to attend Navy or Air Force.
Keala’s experience as a club and high school coach, and guiding his own children through the process, have made him savvy about the details. Keala’s club navigates players through the networking aspect, with each player writing letters to as many as 20 college coaches before the team plays in mainland tournaments. That’s where coaches get a chance to do live scouting. He also has the process of steering players through the NCAA Clearinghouse, and even if players opt for NAIA or junior college, there’s a fit for just about everyone.
“There’s something for everyone, from Division I to JCs. JCs have the most assistance, and no NCAA rules. They can give you money not just based on need,” Keala said. “I’m sitting and talking with college coaches every day. The networking is tremendous. Kids are finding success in the East, and now in the Midwest. Now, they’re breaking into the Big Ten (Conference).”
Keala is still active in high school volleyball as an assistant coach to Tommy Lake at Mid-Pacific.
The growth of Hawaii-born players becoming coaches at the NCAA level has accelerated the trend of scooping talent from the islands. Former Kamehameha player Mike Johnson, now head coach at Notre Dame, invited Keala on campus to give a talk. A few other coaches with local roots include Jalen Reyes of Kamehameha, who played at BYU and now coaches at Nebraska; Jason Kennedy of Maryknoll, now at Boston College; and Diane Nelson, now at Gonzaga. Of course, there’s Reed Sunahara, the former Hilo great, who went on to Ohio State and is now at West Virginia.