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Seasons cut short, but hope remains

BETWEEN THE LINES

King Kekaulike High School graduate Colton Cowell and the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team had hopes of winning a national championship before the spring season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. — UH ATHLETICS photo

Colton Cowell, Fiemea Hafoka, Haloa Dudoit, Amy Ozee.

Maui’s own stories of the heartbreak of promising senior college seasons cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

All they can do is wonder.

Their 2020 seasons will remain in focus, but only in suspended animation.

Forever.

Baldwin graduate Haloa Dudoit had his senior season at Concordia University Irvine cut short. — CUI Athletics / Troy Makalena photo

However, where there’s heartbreak, there’s also hope, positive visions for the future.

Cowell’s No. 2-ranked University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team will never know if it could have won the NCAA championship that the Rainbow Warriors fell just short of last season.

Cowell told me via text Friday that he’s busy and “Fortunately being in HI I’ve been able to train everyday at the beach with a weight vest to at least try and maintain a certain degree of fitness.”

Fellow UH standout Ozee — both are from Upcountry high schools, Cowell from King Kekaulike, Ozee from Seabury Hall — is also left to ponder what might have been as her senior year for the fourth-ranked Rainbow Wahine sand volleyball team ended with a 7-2 record.

Both of the Valley Isle volleyball standouts have professional careers ahead, if they want them. National team possibilities could be on the horizon for each as well.

Hafoka, the former Lahainaluna basketball star from Kihei, endured a collective 24-68 record during her first three years on the San Jose State roster.

This season she enjoyed a homecoming in December as a third-year captain when the Spartans were part of Oregon State’s Maui Classic tournament at the Lahaina Civic Center.

This year SJSU was 19-12 and perhaps on the way to the Women’s NIT, an unthinkable possibility when she arrived in the Bay Area. Hafoka ended her Spartans career with 121 appearances, one short of the school record.

She has been listed on WNBA mock draft boards this season, and I would never count out that possibility.

I believe in the long run her future as a teacher — armed with the Child and Adolescent Development bachelor’s degree that she will soon finish — will shine brightly. My crystal ball says “coach” in her future.

Senior seasons in the MIL that appear to have ended short of the finish line also show me both sides of despair and delight.

Baldwin senior pitcher Aliya Harmon has been on the tough-luck end of three straight winner-take-all games at the end of MIL seasons and will most likely not get the chance to build on a state final four run from last year.

She was dealing early this season, though the smile on her face when I asked her about joining former batterymate Saree-Ann Kekahuna at Weber State next year, however, shows that the near future is bound to be loaded with excitement.

I ran into Tuipulotu Lai, the Lunas defensive lineman who has signed to continue his career at BYU in the fall, a little over a week ago at Costco. He was just grateful that he got to finish his senior football season with a fourth straight Division II state title.

“Spring sport people are definitely upset, like, some of the baseball boys — they’re my friends,” Lai said. “They’re sad that they couldn’t get a senior season. It just really sucks — imagine if it was football that was a spring sport and we couldn’t do that? It just hurts to see that.”

Those were thoughts echoed by all the winter sports MIL Players of the Year I have talked to this week: King Kekaulike’s Hunter Devlin (boys soccer) and Teani Arakawa (girls soccer), Lahainaluna’s Nanea Estrella (girls wrestling) and Baldwin’s Coby Ravida (boys wrestling).

Ravida and Estrella both have college wrestling within their reach, although Ravida may concentrate solely on his nursing academic aspirations.

Lai said that he has seen some of the hardships in Utah on social media, but quickly added that he can’t wait to get there to help things get back to normal.

“I’m very excited to get up there, just grind, and work hard,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dudoit has options.

The former Baldwin baseball standout has done the paperwork to enroll in graduate school at Concordia University Irvine even though he has his eyes set on the Major League Baseball draft. The NCAA appears set to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sport athletes.

With recent reports that the draft may only last five to 10 rounds — if it is held at all this summer — Dudoit’s professional career may have to wait a year while he pursues a master’s degree in coaching.

Similar to Hafoka, coming off three losing seasons to begin his college career, Dudoit’s team was 17-7 when the season was halted.

Going back to CUI has several upsides, including rubbing shoulders with the professional baseball players who use the private school’s secluded facilities.

Fellow Baldwin graduate Kurt Suzuki, a member of the 2019 world champion Washington Nationals and veteran major leaguer, is a close friend of CUI head coach Joe Turgeon from their playing days at Cal State Fullerton.

It was Suzuki’s recommendation that landed Dudoit in Irvine.

“Just this year alone we’ve had guys like (Nolan) Arenado, Daniel Robertson, Albert Pujols, David Fletcher, Addison Russell, and Matt Harvey stop by, just in the last couple months,” Turgeon said.

Dudoit has learned up close and personally from a couple of MLB All-Stars.

“Pujols and Arenado, two of the best probably at their respective positions over the last 10 years, training at the facility, just sitting around the (batting practice) bubble rapping with the guys, just being one of the boys,” Turgeon said. “That’s basically what it comes down to, they take groundballs with the guys, hit with the guys. Matt Harvey, the other day, they were taking at-bats off of him.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to put the best players in the world in front of our guys because then they get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but then they can see what it kind of looks like.”

Hope, all the way around.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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