To say that Colton Cowell was born to play volleyball is not quite true, but it's close.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter for Maui Interscholastic League Division I-champion King Kekaulike High School is the son of two former professional beach volleyball players, Christina and Cody Cowell.
The senior-to-be is also the near-unanimous choice of the league's coaches as The Maui News MIL Boys Volleyball Player of the Year.
Colton Cowell helped the King Kekaulike High School boys volleyball team win this year’s Maui Interscholastic League Division I championship, and place fourth in the state tournament.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"It feels wonderful," Cowell said Tuesday after arriving back from a club practice on Oahu. "I have a lot of people to thank for this award, including my peers, coaches, fellow teammates, family and friends - they really helped me out."
Cody Cowell played on the AVP Tour.
"That's what many people think," Colton Cowell said of being born into the sport. "But actually, when I was younger I tried to do a lot of different sports, as many as I could, because I enjoyed the competitiveness. Volleyball is what I chose to get into when I got to high school."
Cowell is joined on the MIL first team by Na Alii's Lionel Mills, Baldwin's Trent Helle, Hana's Hunter Perry and Noah Hoopai-Feliciano, Maui High's Jaryn Kuhaulua-Feiteira and Seabury Hall's Blake Rizzo and Nyck Yashiro.
Hana's Manuel Oliveira is the MIL coach of the year.
Cowell was the catalyst for King Kekaulike's run to its second MIL title in the sport, and a semifinal berth in the state tournament.
He is part of Oahu-based Kuikahi Volleyball Club's under-17 team that will compete in the Junior Olympics in Houston later this summer, and can often be found playing on the beach.
Cowell rattles off role models in volleyball quickly. The first is two-time MIL Player of the Year John Eddins, a former King Kekaulike standout now playing for New Jersey Institute of Technology.
"Johnny has the most amazing work ethic, he was extremely hard-working," said Cowell, who also mentioned admiration for former Seabury players Rocky DeLyon and Josh Sutherland. "Other role models like guys on the international team. I really admire Karch Kiraly because of his gamesmanship, his sportsmanship, he was a real competitor."
After returning from Oahu, Cowell found that he had just missed a practice with Maui beach volleyball organizer Scottie Zucco, who was an assistant coach for Na Alii last season and has coached Cowell on the beach since 3rd grade.
"I knew Colton when we were playing on the beach courts and he was just a little guy," said Zucco, who learned the beach game from Cody Cowell. "He'd be hanging out on the side, just growing up around the game. Before you knew it the kid is in 8th or 9th grade and playing against the men and holding his own.
"He is probably one of the most fluid volleyball players I have ever seen - that means he's just so graceful and has so much range and power. He is, I would say, one of the most talented volleyball players to come through Maui, just pure talent, pure athletic ability. Up and down the game, he is phenomenal - setting, hitting, you need it, he will get it done."
Zucco said Cowell is also a great person.
"On the beach, you kind of call your own calls and Colton calls everything in favor of his opponents," Zucco said. "That's how much solid character this young guy has."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com