It was one of those unlucky plays that happens in the blink of an eye and can probably be chalked up to the inexplicable force that always seemed to work against Christian Liberty boys soccer come championship time.
That didn’t make Keenen Freitas’ walk to the sidelines any shorter. His hand ball in the penalty box in the waning moments of the 2013 BIIF Division II title game sent the senior off the pitch at Konawaena with a red card and set up the Wildcats with a penalty kick. They converted and made it stand for a 1-0 victory.
Adding indignity to the insult, Freitas also was disqualified for the Canefire’s HHSAA tournament opener. He was a mere spectator in a one-goal CLA loss on Oahu, and he’s confident he could have helped his team come out on top.
“If I could go back and change (the hand ball), I would, because that was the closest we came to winning a title,” Freitas said. “I still think about that game a lot.”
But there’s no need to dwell on it for too long. Soccer was always his secondary athletic pursuit, and the former ace libero for Lees-McRae College is back on the pitch for his new favorite endeavor, grass volleyball, and he already has a championship to show for it.
“It’s a beautiful game like sand (volleyball),” Freitas said. “The same rules apply, but it’s played at a quicker pace.
“The big thing in sand is it’s so much harder to jump. I can jump in indoor volleyball, and on grass I can hold my own.”
He said the grass for Association of Volleyball Professionals matches is cut much like it is for soccer. Of course, use of the hands is encouraged, provided it’s for quick and crisp touches.
On indoor courts, Freitas was an all-BIIF outside hitter at Christian Liberty, but at 5 feet, 11 inches, he was moved to libero at Lees-McRae in North Carolina, ranking first in the nation in digs per set as a senior in 2017.
He resumed his defensive role and added setter to his duties during the first weekend of October as he and two buddies, David Burchfiel and Kevin Harbula, teamed up to win the Men’s AA Triples division at the AVP Grass Grand Nationals in Greenville, S.C. The experience likely won’t become a one-off.
“I played a lot against these guys, but we had never played together,” Freitas said. “I was the smallest guy out there by a lot.
“At the beginning of the day, it was frustrating because I didn’t know how to set them. But we all clicked and the chemistry is amazing. We’re looking forward to seeing where we can go from here.”
Since graduating from Lees-McRae, Freitas said he’s “floated” around the Carolinas — Charleston, S.C., included — working on jobs involved with his major, wildlife biology. He’s also doing his small part to help the club volleyball scene grow in the region by lending a hand in coaching ang giving private lessons. He said he would love to try high school coaching if he found the right fit. He’s currently based in Charlotte, N.C., where, like in East Hawaii, the ocean is to the east and the mountains to the west, albeit at a much greater distance.
“I definitely miss the beach,” Freitas said, “ but I love the Carolinas.”
Especially on grass.
“I’m hooked,” he said.