By KEVIN JAKAHI
By KEVIN JAKAHI
It was an opportunity to lead and fly on her own for Celena Jane Molina, who has been under the wing of older sister Chanelle Molina most of her life.
With Chanelle playing basketball at Washington State, Celena Jane was in charge of the Konawaena volleyball team, the dominant BIIF Division II powerhouse.
Celena Jane, a 5-foot-9 senior setter/opposite, averaged 30 assists, nine kills, eight digs, and three blocks per set.
The Wildcats won their third consecutive BIIF championship, advanced to the HHSAA tournament for the sixth straight year and finished sixth.
Celena Jane followed family tradition and was named the BIIF Player of the Year for Division II, as selected by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, and the league’s coaches.
Chanelle was the POY as a junior and senior. Like her sister, Celena Jane has been on the first team three times; both landed on the second team as freshmen.
“There was a lot of pressure since there was no Chanelle, and I had to step it up and be the leader,” Celena Jane said.
She and Konawaena senior libero Haena Keawekane, who also landed on the first team and averaged 18 digs per set, were co-captains. Two other Wildcats made the first team in freshman middle blocker Anastasia Tuifua, who averaged 12 kills and four blocks per set, and senior setter/middle Mahie Kaawa, who averaged 22 assists, five kills and six digs per set.
Other first team members were Hawaii Prep middle blocker Madi Lee and outside hitter Gemma Palleschi, Honokaa outside hitter Tiera McKenzie, and Kohala outside hitter Shania Fuertes.
Though basketball is her second sport, Celena Jane signed to play hoops at Wazzu. She intends to walk on to the Cougar volleyball team.
Celena Jane has a 3.5 grade-point average and plans to major in education. She has no doubt about juggling three roles: full-time student, basketball and volleyball Cougar.
“I’ve been doing it all my life in high school,” Celena Jane said.
WSU basketball coach June Daugherty offered scholarships to the three Molina sisters: Chanelle, Celena Jane, and Cherilyn, who’ll be eligible to sign her national letter of intent next November.
The Wazzu volleyball team finished with a 22-12 record and lost to No. 3 Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The Cougars ran a 6-2 offense with two setters: 6-foot senior Haley Macdonald and 5-8 junior Nicole Rigoni.
Konawaena coach Ainsley Keawekane believes size will be nothing but small potatoes for Celena Jane on the Division I volleyball court.
“Kanoe Kamana‘o and Robyn Ah Mow (former Rainbow Wahine All-Americans) were not that big,” he said. “Celena is not 6 feet, but I know she can play Division I. Look at Robyn, she was a three-time Olympian (2000, ’04 and ’08). It’s how much they drive themselves.”
Celena Jane is taller than Rigoni, Kamana‘o (5 feet 8), and Ah Mow (5 feet 7). Even better, there’s a setter opening, and she brings a versatile game and a Molina competitive spirit.
If there’s any quote that defines Chanelle Molina, the most accomplished star in BIIF history, it’s something she said her freshman season: “I hate losing, more than I enjoy winning.”
Her sister Celena Jane is built the same way but expresses it differently, noted Keawekane, who saw the Molina sisters grow up with his club team, Hoopa Hawaii.
“When Chanelle loses, she wants to beat everybody and kick butt,” Keawekane said. “Celena is her own person. When she loses, she cries and doesn’t want to talk to anybody. But it’s the same outcome. They’re both ticked off.
“One thing about Celena, she was a different person because Chanelle wasn’t there. She was more driven to step up. She was a better hitter, blocker, setter, and defender. What most people don’t know is Chanelle would call and give her pep talks. It’s like Chanelle was with us the whole time.”
That’s how the Molina sisters are. The three have an unbreakable bond and built-in team chemistry. It carries from one sport to the next, going from BIIF volleyball to basketball and championships are produced.
On the volleyball court, Celena Jane shares Konawaena’s historic achievements with Chanelle. Both were on the inaugural state championship team in 2013 and ’14 repeat; Cherilyn joined in 2014 as a freshman.
But it’s on the basketball floor where the sisters have made their name, continuing coach Bobbie Awa’s dynasty train: back-to-back Division I state titles, eight straight BIIF crowns, and a 94-0 league record that’s still growing.
Daugherty’s scholarship pitch to the Molina sisters might go down in Wazzu history as the best sibling deals ever offered, considering Celena Jane will play two sports.
“The best thing about Wazzu is it’s very family oriented,” said Celena Jane, who didn’t need to add that there’s no better feeling than having her sisters around.
Division II girls
Celena Molina, setter/opposite, Konawaena
Haena Keawekane, libero, Konawaena
Anastasia Tuifua, middle, Konawaena
Mahie Kaawa, setter/middle, Konawaena
Madi Lee, middle, Hawaii Prep
Gemma Palleschi, hitter, Hawaii Prep
Tiera McKenzie, hitter, Honokaa
Shania Fuertes, hitter, Kohala
HPA: Julia Perry, libero; Kia’i Lindsey, setter
Honokaa: Leilani Pupuhi, hitter; Randy Iona, middle
Kohala: Mikayla Kekoa, middle; CJ Agbayani, setter
Pahoa: Raynah Berinobis
Ka’u: Reisha Jara, defensive specialist; Chaunalisa Velez, hitter
Laupahoehoe: Jaylyn Mahoe-Subica, hitter; Polina Kozinskiy, hitter
Christian Liberty: Telly Koon, hitter; Rhylee Corpuz, setter; Mary Pratt, libero
St. Joseph: Emma Faumuina, middle; Jaina Galves, setter; Streisand Galdones, hitter
Makua Lani: Enjolique Hughes; Bryana Smith
Ehunuikaimalino: Ka’ea Alapai; Kau’ionalani Navas-Colburn
Parker: Kawe Lincoln, hitter; Riley Herendeen, hitter