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Maiki Viela signs with Gonzaga for full-ride scholarship

By Staff | Nov 18, 2010

As she commits to play hoops at Gonzaga University, Maiki Viela (center) is surrounded by teammates (from left) Jade Chihara, Ana Lauese, Hiilei Bacalso, Moana Hafoka, Erica Tita Erickson and Misha Whitehead. Photo by Walter Chihara.

LAHAINA — In a signing ceremony that lacked the fanfare and hype accorded to most Division I commitments by high school student athletes, Lahaina girl Maiki Viela inked the dotted line last week to officially accept the offer tendered by the Gonzaga University basketball program of the West Coast Athletic Conference.

The Lady Zags are seven-time defending league champions, reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament and are currently slotted 22nd in the Division I rankings.

Befitting of her Lahaina village humility and reverence for family values, team ethics and community loyalty, 17-year-old Viela requested that the signing event take place in the comfort zone of her home and in the presence of friends and family.

The daughter of Laurie and Chad Viela of Lahaina and the granddaughter of Lanny “Pops” Tihada, Maiki accepted the Gonzaga offer on the first early official signing date: Wednesday, Nov. 10.

“Maiki wanted to sign with her family and teammates there, and wanted only the Lahaina News to cover the event,” said a proud, smiling Pops Tihada last week.

“So it was a pizza party with all the kids there after practice.”

Indeed, Maiki and her Lady Luna teammates are in the final preparations for the upcoming season standing atop the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I mountain as the defending state champions.

Lahainaluna, guided by Coach Todd Rickard, became the first Maui Interscholastic League team to win a D-I basketball title and have worked hard to begin the march up that mountain again.

The team is currently in the midst of the preseason tournament schedule in preparation for their MIL opener in December. The Lady Lunas have won six consecutive MIL championships.

Young Viela was honored last year as the state Player of the Year, as she and 2010 graduate Milika Taufa led the Lady Lunas to the state championship.

Taufa accepted a full ride to Indiana University of the Big Ten, and now, with Maiki earning a similar package with Gonzaga, Lahainaluna has added to the list of its student athletes moving onward and upward to a college education by way of their athletic endeavors.

While playing with the Diana Taurasi travel team this summer, Viela impressed her coaches — including head coach George Quintaro — enough that they contacted the Gonzaga staff and recommended her for their program.

“I went up for an official visit in September. It felt really good to be there. The coaches, the other players — it all seemed to be a perfect fit for me,” she said.

“Now I have more work to do. It’s a big accomplishment, yes, but it’s not like the work is done. There is plenty of work ahead for me.”

She expressed her gratitude to the rainbow of warmth around her.

“Of course, there’s my mom and dad, and Pops (Tihada) for their lifelong support. And to all of my coaches — Coach Todd (Rickard) and the Luna staff — I am very thankful to all of them. And thank you also to Coach Quintaro, Coach Taylor and Coach Agena, who recommended me to Gonzaga,” Maiki said.

“This all wouldn’t have happened without their help. And thanks to the community for always supporting the team — it really means so much to us. It motivates us and makes us proud of who we are.”

In accepting the four-year, full-ride Gonzaga offer — worth in the neighborhood of $300,000– Maiki represents the best of the Lahaina community.

Through her own tireless effort, the support of her family, the guidance of her coaches and the backing of her teammates and the community at large, she has made a giant positive step into the future.

She plans to study sports management at the Spokane, Washington, campus.