WAIMEA — Jake Schneider recently watched a video from his freshman year, where he laid out what he wanted to accomplish during his time at Hawaii Preparatory Academy.
The statements were goals — something that would become synonymous with Schneider during his time with Ka Makani — with the two big bullet points on his list being winning a state title at HPA and earning an opportunity to play at the next level.
Four years later — after a high school career that included four league titles, three state championships and a bevy of personal accolades — Schneider can look back at that video and smile, knowing he shattered those expectations.
Schneider made his next step official this week, signing on to attend and play soccer on scholarship at the University of San Diego.
“Everyone dreams about playing in college, but as it gets closer and closer, you get a little stressed out about the process and finding the right fit,” said Schneider shortly after inking his letter of intent on Wednesday. “Especially when you’re 3,000 miles from the mainland, it’s a little more difficult. But I learned as long as you stay with it, something will always work out.”
San Diego is a NCAA Division I program that plays in the West Coast Conference. Last year, the Toreros finished 7-7-5. It was the first year for head coach Brian Quinn, who took over for Seamus McFadden, who had been the program’s head coach since its inception in 1979.
Schneider grew up in Orange County, and was determined to get back to Southern California. San Diego checked all the boxes for him, with nearly perfect weather year-round and beaches nearby.
“It was really the perfect fit for me,” Schneider said. “I know I have to stay focused and compete on the field, but I’m also a surfer, so being close to the beach was big for me.”
Schneider is one of the most talented goal scorers the BIIF has seen, netting 43 goals his senior season, more than doubling his total as a junior (19) that landed him the BIIF Division I player of the year honors.
“The goal scoring marks are nice,” Schneider said, “but I had a great team around me, supporting me every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Along with his teammates, Schneider also helped recalibrate the expectations for the boys program, turning Ka Makani into not only a BIIF powerhouse, but also a perennial state contender. Hawaii Prep has won four consecutive BIIF titles — two in D-II and a pair in D-I — while also winning a pair of D-II state championships in 2016 and ’17 and a share of the Division I state championship in 2018. The D-I title game was called due to weather, resulting in Hawaii Prep being named co-champions with Baldwin.
“We have a few more banners on the wall and I think there is a good legacy left behind,” Schneider said with his patented smile, glancing at the gym wall packed with banners behind him.
Schneider may be leaving the Big Island but won’t be too far from family, with his brother Austin Schneider — a three-time All-BIIF pick himself — set to transfer from San Jose State to Santa Barbara this fall.
And he’ll also be sharing the city with Laukoa Santos, a Kealakehe grad who’s playing his college soccer at rival San Diego State.
“We have big plans. Growing up, it was me, Austin, Laukoa and (former Kealakehe player) Josh Lopez. That was the squad, all Waikoloa boys,” Schneider said. “Laukoa is like a 10-minute drive away and now we have that big rivalry. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Vinny La Porta saw Schneider’s growth firsthand with the Kona Crush Soccer Academy and said confidence was a key ingredient to his success.
“Jake was always a confident player with a solid growth mindset,” La Porta said. “His confidence grew over time but he excelled once his soccer IQ increased and his technical skills smoothened toward mastery. Lack in confidence only came from lack of information. His training over the years was highly conceptual and he soaked up everything easily. He’s very intelligent and he learned every little aspect of the KCSA curriculum over and over until he was a soccer genius.
“Because of his knowledge, he then could solve any problem on the field instantly. Combine that with ball control mastery and you get a top player. He excelled in both skills and soccer IQ development to the highest degree. This drove his confidence to a level needed to compete at a program like USD.”
Schneider echoed La Porta’s sentiments, saying he didn’t turn the corner as a player until he found his now very evident confidence on the field.
“When you start believing in yourself, it changes everything,” Schneider said. “I think the biggest thing for me was finding and playing with more confidence. I came in as a small freshman, a little lost. I wasn’t a forward yet, kind of in limbo. But then I just told myself ‘I am a baller. I can do this.’ I started scoring more goals, starting a domino effect.”
But with such a gaudy goal total, La Porta pointed out hard work played a huge role as well, making Schneider a one-of-a-kind asset.
“Since he was a little boy, he was always out working extra with the ball,” said La Porta, recalling a time where he once saw Schneider practicing by himself on a cold, rainy Waimea night. “Jake’s true asset is he just makes things happen. You give him the ball, he makes good things happen. A player receives a ball near Jake, he’s dictating what to do and makes things happen. He’s a game-changer.”
Beach heading to Willamette for football; Aribal to Pacific to play baseball
Hawaii Prep standouts Sheldon Aribal and Seth Beach also made their college choices official, signing their letters of intent at Castle Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Aribal will attend Pacific University to play baseball, while Beach is set to suit up to play football for Willamette University.
Aribal was a multi-sport standout for Ka Makani, but has been a key cog for the Hawaii Prep baseball program as both a pitcher and position player.
“Coming into high school, I was thinking about focusing on football, but as I progressed I saw baseball would be my path,” said Aribal, who said he connected with Pacific University at a baseball camp in Hilo. “I’m excited to take this next step.”
Pacific University is in Forest Grove, Oregon and competes as a member of the Northwest Conference in the NCAA Division III. The team finished 25-18 last season.
There are five Hawaii players currently on the Boxer’s roster, including former Waiakea standout Jacob Igawa.
“There’s a pretty good Hawaii contingent up there,” said Aribal, “so that’s a big reason too.”
Aribal said he’s thinking about majoring in finance.
Beach will be a little down the road from Aribal in Oregon at Willamette University, where he will play QB for the NCAA Division III Bearcats. While it was always a thought for him to try to play college ball, he said a nudge in the right direction from his coach Albert “Paki” Cummings helped him along the way.
“Coach Cummings told me I should consider it, and then things started to develop,” said Beach. “It’s always been a dream of mine but I never knew it was a possibility.”
Beach said a large part of his decision was based on academics. He plans to major in kinesiology.
“It fulfilled my academic needs,” said Beach. “They have a really good program.”
There were some rough outings for the Ka Makani QB during his time as the starter, and he took his fair share of lumps with pressure in his face as Hawaii Prep went winless in BIIF play the last two seasons.
However, the character-building lessons of persistence from those games is what Beach hopes to build on with the Bearcats.
“I learned to stay strong and always work hard at your craft,” said Beach. “Listen and trust in the coaches. They have a plan for you.”