“Half woman, half animal.”
That’s how Hawaii Surf soccer club coach Shawn Kuroda describes his devastating center back, Jordan Lau.
Kuroda has leaned on the Punahou senior for many good reasons. The center back has been the backbone of Punahou’s defense, and in the offseason, she does the same for the Surf.
“Jordan is different. I have to tell our kids to stay away from her when they see her coming,” Kuroda said on Friday. “I depend on her for everything on and off the field. It is very hard to compare her to anyone. I never met another player like her, so physical and fast, and very strong.”
Lau’s speed and power have been on display for coaches near and far. On the continent, six Division I programs coveted Lau’s services. She chose USMA and will arrive in West Point next summer. The 5-foot-10, 145-pound senior turned down offers from Brown, Fresno State, Sacramento State and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“I love what (West Point) can provide in terms of academics, character development and the position of great leaders in our country. I hope to represent West Point one day in a leadership role. I hope to represent my family, Punahou and, most importantly, Hawaii,” she said.
Punahou coach Shelley Izuno is stoked about Lau’s choice.
“As an Army veteran myself, I am so proud of her and I admire her courage to attend a military academy. She’s a special kind of tough to seek that opportunity and get accepted,” Izuno said. “She has already proven she can endure.”
Coach Lau didn’t expect it, either.
“It kind of surprised us. The West Point coach came to watch another player on another team that was playing us at a mainland college soccer showcase in her sophomore year,” he said. “Coach Adrian Blewitt approached Coach Kuroda and even flew flew out to Hawaii that summer to make a home visit to speak to us.”
Lau, who has a 3.53 grade-point average, never expected to join the United States Military Academy. Her family doesn’t have history with the armed forces.
“West Point wasn’t even on my radar. The whole process is kind of new for me and I’m learning along the way,” said Lau, who is applying for a nomination from Sen. Mazie Hirono, Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Ed Case.
Her parents visited West Point with her, but she also considered the other options.
“Jordan thrives in structured environments. We made her take the other official visits so that she could make an educated decision,” Coach Lau said.
After graduation, she will serve five additional years.
“Once I’m in, I become a plebe,” Lau said.
Blazing a different trail is her way. Older brother Ezekiel attended Kamehameha while becoming a professional surfer. So did older sister Sarah, an all-state soccer player who lettered in three sports.
Competition within the household — father Leonard is a former Hawaii football player and currently interim head coach at Punahou — was and still is the norm.
“Zeke is nine years older and he’s competitive about everything. Sports. Board games. I would always beat him at checkers. I remember I was 10 and he wouldn’t let me go to sleep until he beat me,” she recalled. “We played over and over. I was crying. We haven’t played again in a long time.”
Sarah Lau went on to play soccer at Hawaii.
“She’s a role model for me. I relate to her more. I don’t look up to her just for athletics. I admire her mindset. She’s very tough and she can also be very gracious toward others,” Jordan Lau said. “We both play defense, but she plays outside wing or fullback, and I’m a center back.”
Lau knew at an early age that the blue and gold were going to be her choice.
“Everybody knew I was going to Kamehameha, but ever since I was in fourth or fifth grade, I wanted to go to Punahou. I would always go to my sister’s soccer games and they would play. Kamehameha against Punahou. I always liked the thought of playing against my siblings. I was always in the shadow of my older siblings and I kind of wanted to separate from them.”
Those were large shadows.
“If I went to Kamehameha, I would be known as Zeke’s younger sister or Sarah’s younger sister,” said Lau, who applied to Punahou and Kamehameha.
“I got into both schools. My parents knew I always wanted to go to Punahou. They made a lot of sacrifices for us to go there,” she said, referring to younger sister Dalen, a sophomore.
“She’s my best friend. She knows everything about me,” Lau said.
Dalen Lau plays center back, just like Jordan.
“I would say I’m more aggressive and she’s more laid back and calm. I’m more outgoing and she’s more to herself and shy. With me, I’m the only person she’s outgoing with,” Jordan Lau said.
She played a variety of sports, though soccer was the first. Volleyball came later and lasted until middle school.
“I played Little Leahi (Soccer Club) when I was 5. We were actually playing with boys. I was with Leahi up to my freshman year, then I switched to Hawaii Surf,” Lau said.
That opened up more connections with college recruiters.
“Coach Shawn Kuroda has been a big help for me and I’m grateful for him. He helps a lot of girls play at the next level,” Lau said.
As a sophomore, Lau took up track and ran the 100- and 200-meter sprints, the 4×100 relay and 400-meter run.
“The 100 is my best event. I’m still kind of learning how to run correctly, my form. Track running is very different from soccer. Junior year (last spring), I was starting to get into the groove and the quarantine hit,” she said.
Since the pandemic began, Jordan, Dalen and dad have been running non-stop.
“My dad doesn’t really believe in working out with weights for us. He believes in sprinting, so the main focus is speed and getting faster. If you look at track (sprinters), they’re just physically fit,” Lau said.
The daily routine is about sprinting and hill work.
“On Mondays and Wednesdays, we do warmups, technical form, running drills, stretching. Then we sprint (intervals) of 40 yards, 60, 80, 100, five sets of these. In between our warmups, we do speed breaks, just short splints to work on explosion,” Lau said.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are upper-body days.
“We worn on arms. For that, we surf for two hours at Rockpiles. My dad loves to surf. All my sisters and my dad,” she said. “Sometimes, Zeke joins us if he’s home.”
Fridays are reserved for dreaded hill runs.
“We’ve been doing this nonstop since March. I stopped throwing up, but it gets a little boring after awhile,” Lau said. “On weekends, we either play soccer, or we just started boxing at home. My dad always had gloves around the house, but we never used them. We also have family basketball games.”
They also swim on Saturday mornings at Sandy’s. Lau noted that the sisters can outrun their father now
“My dad runs everything with us, the hills and the sprints. He can’t really keep up, but he finishes it,” she said. “He’s slowing down.”
Coach Lau accepts the reality.
“I’m an old man with a bad back, so they better beat me or they’re running more,” he said. “In normal times, I wouldn’t have this time with them to work on this, so we’re just taking advantage of this off time. They love ’20 Hills’ days.”
As a family, they are also mindful of their intake of nutrients.
“We started getting into reading about being vegan. Animal products affect you physically and how you look overall. Since March, our whole family hasn’t been eating (as much) meat. We do eat eggs and fish because we need our protein,” Lau said. “We shop at Whole Foods a lot. A lot of nuts and legumes.”
That also means much more home cooking.
“That’s really important to my dad, what you’re putting into your mouth. Other places, you never know what they’re putting in there,” she said.
By late June, Lau expects to be on her way to the East Coast for basic training. Until then, she and her Punahou classmates are just hoping for normalcy.
“It’s definitely not going to be the same, but again, I think it’s very important that everyone stays safe, wears their masks. Staying positive and working hard,” she said. “If I could choose one event for senior year (to be unaffected by COVID-19) it’s a normal graduation. After going to Punahou for so long, I’ve dreamt to have the dressing up in formal wear, getting my diploma without a screen. Just seeing my friends. That’s a big one.”
Kuroda is already missing Lau’s presence on the Surf squad.
“She’s a great talent and a great kid. Her parents and her family support is amazing. I wish I had a few more Jordans and parents like hers on my team,” he said. “Jordan will do big on amazing teams. I love coaching her.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. The original “Mulan.” “I was kind of not too impressed with the (live action movie). There’s no music, that’s why. Mushu wasn’t in the live-action.”
2. “God’s Not Dead.”
3. “Thirteen Hours.” “War movie. Me and my dad loved that movie.”
Top 3 food/snacks/drink
1. Avocado. “Everything Bagel Seasoning. It’s probably pepper, salt. It’s really good.”
2. Hawaiian blend poke, Fresh Catch.
3. Kailua monkey smoothie, Lanikai Juice. “It’s super good. It’s just peanut butter, almonds, milk, vanilla extract. You can order it vegan.”
Also: “I can make vegan pesto pasta. My mom (Daina) makes it a certain way. We buy vegan pasta at Whole Foods, and it’s usually in a packet already. You put the water, boil the pasta, put it in the colander, put in vegan butter, pour in the pesto (powder) sauce, pour it back in the pasta, add more pesto. Then we add some bell peppers, any vegetables we have. Cucumbers, olives, mushrooms, asparagus.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Lauren Daigle. “Trust in You.”
2. 2Pac. “Ambitionz Az a Ridah.”
3. Maoli. “In Case You Didn’t Know.”
New life skill
Lau: “I learned a couple of new songs on my piano. My favorite artist is Lauren Dangle, so I learned ‘Love Like This.’ I’m not really good at singing, but I sing, too. My mom likes Lauren Daigle, too. She sings with me. She went to Sacred hearts, so she says they do a lot of chapel singing.”
Lau: “Just in general, I’d like to thank my family for being supportive, especially my parents, through my journey. Also, my teachers and all my coaches that helped me get to where I am and helped me get opportunities and open doors for me, especially West Point. I hope I can represent them and Hawaii well. Especially, I’d like to thank my club soccer coach, Shawn Kuroda.