KOHALA — It was a banner year for the Kohala girls volleyball program. For the first time in school history, the Cowgirls managed to reach the pinnacle by claiming a BIIF crown.
The road was not easy, but first year head coach Chyler Imai managed to pave the way with the help of her assistant coaches U’i Lorenzo and Leeta Grap. With the trio of leadership at the top, Kohala toppled volleyball powerhouse Konawaena in the Division II championship game.
The victory was a moment that will last forever in Kohala lore, and gave Imai a memory that she will never forget.
“It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” Imai said. “It was a huge transition for me to go from player to coach but it was a remarkable season.”
Leading the Cowgirls to the title was senior multisport standout Mikayla Kekoa. With her power at the net, and consistent play all over the court Kekoa was able to lead her team to the championship, completing a long road that started with a one-win season her freshman year.
Because of her play this season, Kekoa was named the girls BIIF Division II Player of the Year, as voted by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today and league coaches.
“This means a lot to me,” said a surprised Kekoa after being told she had won the award. “We had a stacked team with mostly seniors and two juniors coming into this year and we worked really hard. It is amazing to have the experience of winning BIIF’s with this team.”
During the title match with the Wildcats, Kekoa was unstoppable, picking up 19 kills. Fittingly, she also scored the last point to clinch the championship.
Kekoa also helped Kohala reach states for the third consecutive season after finishing with a 14-4 league record. The Cowgirls lost to Damien in the state quarterfinals.
“Mikayla is very loud, very out-going and very crazy,” Imai said. “She was our go-to player this year and she also kept everyone loose by cracking jokes and making everyone laugh.”
Kekoa is joined on the girls All-BIIF Division II first team by senior teammates Shania Fuertes and Cheylin Imai. Both players were key to the teams victory over Konawaena. Fuertes was second to only Kekoa with 13 kills and Cheylin Imai dominated from the service line with eight aces.
“Shania was the most consistent and rounded player on the team,” Chyler Imai said. “She is a quiet player and leads by example.”
Cheylin Imai brought an interesting challenge to the first year head coach. The two are sisters.
“Having to coach your little sister can be challenging, but she understood the difference between being at home and being a player on the team,” Chyler Imai said. “She was also a quiet leader to start the season, but by the end, she started to come out a bit and even called plays.”
Three other Cowgirls managed to make the All-BIIF team as honorable mentions: Kiana Kauka, Gabby Tomas and Mekaila Pasco.
Chyler Imai was named the girls Division II coach of the year in her debut season, an award she did not feel like she deserved despite being 1-for-1 in BIIF title matches.
“There are a lot of better coaches out there in (Konawaena’s) Ainsley (Keawekane) and (Hawaii Prep’s) Sharon (Peterson),” Chyler Imai said. “I definitely did not expect this but I am thankful.
“I could not have done it without my assistant coaches,” she added. “They were the backbone of the team. I also had a lot of support from parents and coaches in the community. They helped me out and I owe them.”
Joining the three Kohala players on the first team list are Konawaena’s Malie Grace (junior) and Kailee Llanes-Kelekolio (freshman), Hawaii Prep’s Gemma Palleschi (senior) and Christian Liberty’s Rhylee Corpuz (senior).
All-BIIF Division II Volleyball
Mikayla Kekoa, Kohala, 12
Shania Fuertes, Kohala, 12
Cheylin Imai, Kohala, 12
Malie Grace, Konawaena, 11
Gemma Palleschi, HPA, 12
Kailee Llanes-Kelekolio, Kona, 9
Rhylee Corpuz, Christian Liberty, 12
Player of the year
Mikayla Kekoa, Kohala, 12
Coach of the year
Chyler Imai, Kohala
CLA: Brooke Perreira
Ka’u: Chaunalisa Velez
Kohala: Kiana Kauka, Gabby Tomas, Mekaila Pasco
Konawaena: Keala Acol
HPA: Jenna Perry
St. Joseph: Emma Faumuina, Mary Campbell
Makua Lani: Monilaite Moniati, Hannah Eli, Enjolique Hughes
Parker: Jenna Blevins, Nahe Rosario, Macey Note, Aislyn Dela Rosa
Listed by vote total