Big Island college report: Kamahameha alum hits ground running

  • Orange Coast College photo Mahina Kenoi has found the right fit as a freshman at Orange Coast.

Mahina Kenoi jumped right in at Orange Coast College, where she won a starting spot on the volleyball team and opened her heart to her new home.

The 2019 Kamehameha graduate is starting at outside hitter for the Pirates (6-0), who enter conference play next week.

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The 5-foot-7 freshman is averaging 2.62 kills per set with a .228 hitting percentage. She leads the team with 4.69 digs per set and seven aces.

She may be undersized as a hitter but compensates with her other skills: backcourt defense and from the service line. Kenoi is third on the team with 3.3 points per set, a Pirate who can score points and prevent them as well.

Kenoi was also interested in Seattle Pacific but looked into high-level junior college volleyball and found a fit at OCC.

“OCC just seemed like the best choice because it’s one of the toughest conferences in SoCal,” she said. “Costa Mesa is such a beautiful city, and Orange County is a perfect home away from home for me with the ocean near me and everything.”

Kenoi enjoys the competitive and supportive culture at OCC., which has, here’s a fun fact: its own Starbucks, the only community college in Orange County to have one.

“Orange Coast was definitely the best choice for me,” she said. “I am able to be challenged by my teammates and coaches. They have been supportive from day one of my dreams and goals and truly want the best for me. My team is amazing. Everyone pushes each other to be the best they can be.

“I knew that coming to a junior college meant that I had to work harder than I ever had to stand out to be able to transfer to a four-year university. So I did just that and went 100 percent every single day to work up to get a starting position from the first game and kept it ever since.”

The Pirates leave little time for couch potato surfing. Practices run from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and weights and conditioning from 3 to 4 p.m.

On weekends, for fun, Kenoi and her roommates hit the gym to get in extra reps in the weight room. When Mondays roll around, it’s back to class bouncing from 8 a.m. to the next class then later to practice.

Time management isn’t her major, but Kenoi already has a PhD and has learned to make the most of her time. She does have to study, eat and sleep at some point.

She’s majoring in early education but also may follow in the footsteps of her mom, Takako, who’s a flight attendant.

Her brother Justin, a 2018 Kamehameha graduate, is studying political science at UNLV. The oldest, Liam, is a senior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Mom and dad, Billy Kenoi, recently visited and took in a match. It made for a nice mini-family reunion.

“They just visited me this past weekend to watch my game,” she said. “It was the best feeling in the world having them watch me play the game that I love. I was almost in tears after the game because of how proud they were of me. And that’s what I’m working for every day to make them proud.”

“They have been telling me my whole life to keep working hard and dream big. Now it feels bigger because I’m playing for something more than myself. My dream is to transfer to a Division I school, and I think I can get there if I keep pushing myself and keep their advice close to my heart and never give up that dream.”

She sounds like she memorized one of the inspirational speeches her dad used to give, like the one in 2014 at Hawaii Pacific’s commencement. He talked about spreading aloha and that there’s no such thing as “no can, only how can” and that obstacles are meant to go over, around or through.

It’s a life lesson parents give and hope their children hear. Mahina Kenoi not only heard it but it’s become a big part of her heart.

Soccer

Emi Higgins (Hawaii Prep, 2019), a freshman forward at No. 7 Colorado School of Mines, was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference offensive player of the week while making her collegiate debut.

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Higgins scored a goal in each of the Mines’ two wins. On Friday against Chico State, she scored just 1 minute and 23 seconds into the season to become the fastest freshman to net a first career goal in program history. On Sunday, she added another goal in a 2-0 win over San Francisco State.

Higgins, a computer science major was a two-time BIIF Division II player of the year and led HPA to three state titles.

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