The St. Anthony volleyball program will have a change in leadership for the 2022-23 school year with the announcement that longtime head coach Alicia Lemau’u is stepping away from the program. Lemau’u has been the head coach of both the girls’ and boys’ volleyball programs for the past decade, winning a CIF title with the girls’ team in 2016.
Lemau’u will take over at nearby Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood, meaning she’ll still be coaching in the Del Rey League. After a decade with the Saints, Lemau’u said it was time for a new challenge in her coaching career.
“I felt in my heart it was the end of an era and my run was done,” Lemau’u said about the move to Saint Joseph. “It’s a bigger program and with the run they’ve been having the last couple of years, I felt like I could do something with it as well … I loved my time at St. Anthony, I taught and grew so much. I got the job when I was 25 and I’m 35 now, so it actually shaped the person I am as a coach. Now I’m ready to step out and close this era at St. Anthony.”
During her first eight seasons with the Saints, Lemau’u’s teams on the girls’ side averaged just shy of 22 wins per year. After the pandemic-shortened season, the Saints struggled to a last-place finish in league in 2021.
Replacing Lemau’u as head coach of the girls’ program is well-respected local volleyball coach Keli Pula. His lengthy resume includes coaching stints at Jordan and Long Beach Poly, where he was an assistant coach for a decade. More recently, Pula has coached high school volleyball at Arcadia and Mater Dei, while also coaching club at Mizuno.
“I always wanted to coach in my own community,” said Pula, who lived just a 5-minute drive from the St. Anthony campus. “If I can win at Poly, I can also help out with other schools in my community. I don’t feel the need to go win championships somewhere else, I can do that here. I can do that at St. Anthony.”
The transition should be smooth, given that Lemau’u and Pula have coached together multiple times in the past and are friends. They’ll also get the chance to coach against one another twice every season during league play.
“Coach Keli has my utmost trust in taking over the program,” said Lemau’u of her successor. “He is one of my mentors and helped me learn how to coach, so I’m happy he’s stepping in. He’s a Long Beach guy and his intentions are good, so it’s the same vibe.”
“Alicia did great things here,” said St. Anthony Athletics Director Chris Morrison. “I think I started a year or two before her, so I watched her build that program and do great things. We were sad to see her go, but we knew it was time for a change.”
During the interview process, Morrison said he was impressed by Pula’s accolades and experience, and is excited to bring in a coach of his caliber who he expects will fit in nicely with the school’s athletic culture.
“We did our homework and realized this guy is a gem that nobody has taken,” Morrison said of Pula. “We need to pick him up and bring him here to continue the legacy that Coach Alicia started and strive to take us higher.”
While Pula will get to work immediately as head of the girls’ volleyball team, the Saints’ boys’ program is still in need of new leadership. Morrison said the hiring process for that position is ongoing.
St. Anthony is scheduled to begin its season on Aug. 18 against Gahr.