The sun shone over the brown brick building with the words “Oregon State University” gleaming in the eyes of senior ʻIlihia Keawekane. Since Keawekane stepped foot on the campus, her heart attached itself to the college in Corvallis, Oregon, where she will attend as a freshman in the 2018-19 school year.
Seniors Keawekane and Aliah Ayau signed their athletic letters of intent Feb. 1 in the Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center, where family and friends gathered to celebrate their commitment. Keawekane will be attending Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, and Ayau is going to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
“I can’t thank my parents and friends enough for always pushing me to be the best I can be,” Keawekane said.
Among the crowd, Amos Lonokailua-Hewett, ʻIlihia’s father, gets emotional watching Keawekane sign into Oregon State; until now, he’s been a “rock” throughout her soccer career. His career with the Maui Fire Department has allowed him to travel with Keawekane to her many soccer tournaments on other islands and the Mainland.
“I’ve been with her through her ups and downs, the tears of joy and sadness, sleeping and eating habits. I would like to think I was her rock,” Lonokailua-Hewett said.
The Keawekane and Lonokailua-Hewett family of five lives in the world of soccer, allowing ʻIlihia to play for multiple soccer clubs, such as the Leahi Soccer Club, Hawaiʻi, and Davis Legacy Soccer Club in California. ʻIlihia and her father have traveled nearly 18 times a year for the past four years, specifically for soccer.
“I’m thankful that my job allows me to travel with [ʻIlihia] because otherwise, she wouldn’t have the best soccer experience she has right now,” Lonokailua-Hewett said.
On the morning of her signing at Kamehameha Maui, Keawekane and her parents first traveled to Oʻahu to sign a letter of lntent with her current soccer club, Leahi.
It was an emotional day for both Keawekane and her parents, made possible with a lot of support. Lonokailua-Hewett said he has always encouraged her to “believe in herself, to continue to work hard, and never lose passion for what you love.”
The upcoming months will have more seniors signing Letters of Intent, so keep checking Ka Leo O Nā Koa for updates.