Saturday | October 21, 2017
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Prep pipeline to Pacific U. runs strong


Tribune-Herald sports writer

Tucked away in Forest Grove, Ore., Pacific University is known for having a heavy enrollment of students from Hawaii, and attracting all-stars from all islands to its football team.

In something that’s turning into a tradition, almost every year there is someone from the Big Island on Pacific’s football squad that plays in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference.

The Boxers have four homegrown players: senior wide receiver Kelson Kawai (2010 Kohala graduate), sophomore quarterback Warner Shaw (2012 Kamehameha), offensive lineman Kennon Quiocho (2013 Kamehameha) and linebacker Laimana Grace (2013 Konawaena).

All four have landed on the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II first team as seniors. Of the four, Kawai is the only one starting. He is also on the school’s track and field team.

Kawai, a four-year starter, has yet to experience a winning season at Pacific, which finished with losing records in his three years: 2012 (3-6 overall, 2-4 NWC); 2011 (1-8, 1-5); and 2010 (0-9, 0-6).

The Boxers raced to a 5-0 record, the best start in school history. That unbeaten streak was snapped with a 17-16 loss at No. 17 Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. The Lutes marched 39 yards in 35 seconds, and kicked a 20-yard game-winning field goal with two seconds left.

Kawai caught two balls for 36 yards. For the season, the 5-foot, 7-inch Kawai has eight receptions for 115 yards with one touchdown. Last year, he had 442 receiving yards and led the Boxers with six touchdowns.

The Boxers (5-1, 2-1) play a nonconference home game against University of Chicago on Saturday. Pacific’s biggest game of the season is at home against Linfield on Nov. 16. The four-time defending NWC champion Wildcats have a string of 57 straight winning seasons.

Linfield has 10 players from Hawaii, including one from the Big Island in sophomore cornerback Keanu Yamamoto (2012 Hawaii Prep). For the season, Yamamoto has played in five games, made eight tackles, and been credited with one pass deflection.


• Leilani Smith (2013 Hilo) is playing at Odessa (Texas) Junior College (18-8, 7-1 conference), which competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Wranglers are in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

In a three-set sweep at home over Clarendon College last Saturday, Smith had three kills and two blocks. For the season, she is averaging 1.24 kills per sets while playing in all 26 matches.

• Leeta Grap (2012 HPA) is in her last season at North Idaho College, which qualified for the NJCAA Division I championships last year. In a three-set sweep at home over Utah State-College of Eastern Utah last Saturday, Grap posted eight kills, a match-high seven aces, and 11 digs.

For the season, Grap is averaging 12.4 kills per set and 16.2 digs per game for the Cardinals (12-7, 5-2).

• Makamae Namahoe (2010 Hilo) is third with 2.51 kills per set and second with 4.05 digs per game for C.W. Post (17-5, 6-2 East Coast Conference), a Division II school in New York. The 5-foot, 10-inch senior middle blocker has led the team in kills the last two years and was second as a freshman. She’s made the ECC second team all three years.

Last season, the Pioneers lost in three sets to Adelphi in the first round of the NCAA Division II East Regional. In 2011, C.W. Post fell to Dowling College in the conference semifinals. In 2010, the Pioneers were eliminated again by Adelphi in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


• Welina Tong (2013 Kamehameha) is competing at Midland University, an NAIA school in Fremont, Neb. The season recently started for the Warriors.

Wong won two BIIF titles at 175 pounds and closed her career with a state championship in March.

• Noelle Pohina (2013 Kamehameha) is wrestling at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. The school competes in the Women’s College Wrestling Association.

In the team’s last match on Oct. 13, Pohina, at 136 pounds, lost by pin to her first opponent at the 1:56-minute mark and by points to her next foe.

Pohina was the BIIF runner-up at 125 pounds.

• Tanalei Louis (2013 Konawaena/Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino) is competing at Oklahoma City University, an NAIA school, which starts its season on Oct. 25 at home against Tong’s Midland.

At the state championships, Louis took third at 135 pounds. She won four BIIF wrestling crowns, along with two other bronze and a silver at states.

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