PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY DAVID SWANN / DSWANN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kenan Knieriem won't have time for soccer -- or nearly anything else -- when he begins training to become a Navy SEAL at Coronado, Calif., in September.
The SEAL deal
Punahou alumnus Knieriem is looking forward to training as a Navy SEAL
KENAN Knieriem Jr. scored the highlight goal of his career this year and also reached a goal he had been working toward for four years at the United States Naval Academy.
The senior has been accepted into the Navy SEALs program and will start the year-and-a-half training necessary to become a SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) at Coronado, Calif., in September.
"It has been a goal since the middle of my plebe (freshman) year," Knieriem said. "It's a community that involves the best people. You work with the best people every day and you get to work a lot of cool missions.
NAVY KEEPS KNIERIEM BUSY
A typical day this fall for Kenan Knieriem at the Naval Academy
6:40 a.m.: Wake up, put on uniform, shave, etc.
7 a.m.: Morning Quarters Formation.
7:15 a.m.: Breakfast.
12:05 p.m.: Noon meal formation outside, where everyone marches to lunch. For athletes, eat at 11:55 a.m. as a team and go to practice until 1:20 p.m. (usually lifting weights or watching video).
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Classes.
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Practice.
7 p.m.: Dinner as a team,
7:30-??? Homework, etc.
"I still have to go to training and that is a big hurdle. It is so competitive."
His goal at 16:07 in the Oct. 28 match against Army put the Midshipmen on the scoreboard first en route to a 4-2 triumph.
That meant Knieriem and his senior classmates never lost to Army in their four years, winning twice and tying twice.
"There was a long throw in (by J.P. Murphy) and Zach (Pleis), who has terrific vertical ability, won the header and the ball came to my feet. I did a 180 (degree) volley," said Knieriem who scored his third goal of the season with his back to the goal.
"I honestly didn't see the goal until I watched the video," Navy coach Rich Miranda said. "It was a great goal from about 12 yards outside the post. It opened up the match for us. I'm sure it took Army by surprise."
Knieriem was a busy student-athlete at Punahou. He lettered four years in soccer and also lettered in cross country, golf, gymnastics and kayaking.
He originally was going to the University of San Diego where he planned to major in art. It wasn't until April of his senior year that the Naval Academy -- his father's alma mater -- entered into the picture.
"I got accepted to the Academy and my dad (Kenan Sr.) didn't want to pay for me to keep doing the same stuff (had he gone to USD)," said Knieriem, who did visit the Annapolis, Md., campus before making his final decision. "I knew the Academy was a good place to be from, but I really didn't know what I was getting myself into."
Then-Navy head coach Greg Myers had seen Knieriem play in a regional tournament in Idaho.
"I know when Greg came back from the tournament, he told me we have to get this kid. He said he had never seen a kid work that hard in a game," said Miranda, who took over for the retired Myers this year after 14 seasons as his assistant.
"When Kenan got here I could see there was a whole lot of truth in what Greg said."
It was a whole new world for Knieriem during his plebe year at the Academy.
"You always have people looking at you making sure you do the right thing," Knieriem said. "On top of school and soccer there is stuff, like the menus, you have to memorize every day.
"You have to know the number of days to the next Army-Navy event. You have to read three news articles about the world and know what is in them every day."
Knieriem played in just five matches as a freshman
"There were 15 freshmen and I was just happy to dress," said Knieriem, who played one of the outside midfield positions. "There were about five of us who usually dressed but we didn't play that much,"
"The seniors that year were awesome, so once they left a lot of spots opened up."
He found the soccer totally different from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. The matches were a lot more intense. The play was way more aggressive.
Knieriem played in 15 matches as a sophomore, scoring his first goal, and 15 again as a junior when he got his first assist.
"As the years went by, Kenan got more playing time. He is a great finisher, can shoot with both feet," Miranda said. "He worked tremendously hard last summer to get ready for his senior year and it made a difference.
"He has great speed, but the biggest difference is that he could play with his back to the goal and hold the ball. He had more composure and made very good decisions this year."
Instead of coming back to Hawaii for the summer, Knieriem trained with the SEALS for a month, then returned to Annapolis where he worked out on his own three times a day.
"I worked on my touch (with the ball) and with my quickness," Knieriem said. "In the beginning I didn't start the first five matches. There were a couple of guys who started, then were subbed out after about 20 minutes. I probably played more than them overall."
The Midshipmen (8-6-2) were picked to finish last in the eight-team Patriot League, but came in fifth, just missing the final playoff berth by one point.
Knieriem started the last nine matches. He finished with three goals, two assists and put 11 of his 17 shots on goal.
"This season, for the seniors, was really satisfying. I've never been on a team that was so closely knit. They are going to be well set up for next year," Knieriem said.
"Kenan is just a great kid who does very well in the classroom," Miranda said. "He is always there for the other players, helping the younger players get through the Academy. We're sad to see him leave. It will be a big loss."
A naval architecture major, Knieriem will receive his commission (graduate) May 26.