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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kan, Keala look to power Tigers’ 18th ranked recruiting class

Former Hawaii high school rivals team up for MU.

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Freshmen Carly Kan, Linda Steinhardt, Julia Towler, Loxley Keala and Emily Thater interact with a young fan during the women's volleyball team meet and greet event Saturday afternoon at Columbia Mall. The girls comprise five out of the six new recruits for Missouri this year, a signing class ranked 18th nationally.

Danielle Lerner/Staff Photographer

Aug. 21, 2013

Though Hawaii may be a bit outside of Missouri volleyball’s typical recruiting base, the Tigers’ top two incoming freshmen are natives of the 50th state. Hitter Carly Kan and setter Loxley Keala power the nation’s 18th-ranked recruiting class, according to PrepVolleyball.com.

“The odds of us getting a kid from Hawaii are slim enough,” coach Wayne Kreklow said, “and I think they just wanted something different. … Quite a few kids in Hawaii are looking for a college experience.”

Though Kan and Keala’s joint signing was purely coincidental, the pair spent most of their high school careers at rival schools. After committing to MU, each at the end of their sophomore years, the girls became beach partners, eventually advancing to the semifinals of the Hermosa Beach Open in California during their junior years. This past experience helped to lay a foundation for the pair to continue as teammates on the Tigers’ roster this season.

“The chemistry’s there …. We trust each other and trust that we’re going to perform well all the time,” Keala said. “We do argue about which (high) school is better. It’s mine.”

Kan also affirms the value of hers and Keala’s partnership.

“I find a lot of comfort having her around,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone else here.”

Hailing from Honolulu, Kan is the projected standout among the six freshmen. At a height of 5 feet 9 inches, the outside hitter racked up a career hitting percentage of .335, leading Punahou High to second place finishes in the Hawaii state championship in both 2009 and 2010. The team finally clinched the Division I title in 2012, earning Kan the honor of Hawaii State Tournament Most Valuable Player. PrepVolleyball.com further acknowledged her talent by naming her a high school All-American.

Growing up in an athletic family, Kan enjoyed an active childhood. Her father Darryl was an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers. Her older brother Brett played college ball at the University of Southern California.

From a young age, Kan participated in many activities, playing soccer and both singing and dancing in a performing group for eight years.

“I was a busy child,” Kan said.

At the time, Kan had no idea of Keala’s interest in Missouri, and “literally fell in love” with the university upon visiting. One of the main factors that drew her to the school was the attention sports teams receive from the community.

“They have a lot of pride here and big crowds, which is similar to in Hawaii,” Kan said, where she describes volleyball as a sport phenomenon akin to that of football or basketball in the continental United States.

Kreklow has high hopes for both Kan and Keala, who are part of Missouri’s largest signing class since 2010.

“We’ve been really, really pleased with what they both provide,” he said. “The way they play is beyond their years,” he said.

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