By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The scene was exactly how University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s soccer coach Ziggy Korytoski envisioned it when he took over.
His Vulcans had put away Academy of Art at home Saturday night to end their season, but the final chapter for 2012 wasn’t written just yet. UHH was still out on the field interacting with its autograph-seeking fans.
It took some time and they endured some blowout losses early on, but the Vuls and their first-year coach finally put a signature on the season. Korytoski was so encouraged by the final stretch, he could hardly wait to get started toward next year.
“I think we’ve accomplished so much in such a short time. I’m real excited for what the future will bring,” Korytoski said. “This was about laying a foundation about want we wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve.”
The 5-1 victory over the Urban Knights helped UHH end with a 5-1-1 surge to tie for seventh in the 14-team Pacific West Conference. Korytoski noted the upper-division finish, but he was even happier with the turnout. The announced crowd was over 300 fans for a rare night match.
“I think we’re proudest of how we’ve worked with the community and the student body,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle. That is something that these guys will always remember.”
After inheriting a two-win team, Korytoski sought to instill a culture change.
Senior Aaron Sanchez said it was more like culture shock at first, but he and his teammates bought in.
“He brought a professional atmosphere. From practice he wanted to perfect everything. He’d scold us on little things,” Sanchez said. “Those scoldings and screaming at us, they actually made us better. They made us focus more.”
Sanchez is one of five seniors UHH will lose — the Tribune-Herald incorrectly reported three in Saturday’s edition. The others are Vincent Muscarella, Makua Lani graduate Gerald Walsh (11 games played in 2012), Josiah Motosue (11) and backup goalkeeper Luis Romero.
Muscarella helped the Vuls (5-8-2, 5-7-2 PacWest) pick up their offensive production midseason, finishing third on the team in goals (four) and points (nine).
Perhaps no player will be missed more than Sanchez, however. In his only season as a Vul, the 25-year-old from South Gate, Calif., helped push the pace and dictate tempo whether he was playing midfield or fullback.
“I wanted to leave on a good note, and this is a really good note,” he said. “It’s time to pass the torch to the younger kids and start my life.”
Sanchez narrowly missed netting the program’s first hat trick last month.
Junior Rayden Bala accomplished the feat Saturday with a three-goal surge that gave him a team-high six. Bala, a Kealakehe graduate, and sophomore Ikaika Fuerte (five goals) both produced a team-high 13 points. UHH scored 25 goals in 2012, a huge jump from the eight it compiled the previous season.
“Our chemistry came together perfectly. I knew where everyone was without even looking,” Bala said. “I think we’re going to be a really good team next year. We’re going to be up there.”
A pillar in net all season, junior goalkeeper Yonha Adrabi led the PacWest in saves per game at 6.7.
“I see a great foundation that we’ve laid down,” Sanchez said. “I see a skyscraper that’s just going to come up. Who knows? It could result in a national championship.”
The Lady Vulcans (5-12, 3-11), who didn’t have a senior on their roster, finished 12th in the PacWest.
Sophomore forward Kristine Pasek tied for fourth in the league in goals (eight) and tied for seventh in points (18). Sophomore forward Brianna Lopiccolo’s eight assists led the PacWest.
“I think we’ve built solid building blocks for the future,” first-year coach Unity Beddingfield said.
Notes: Grand Canyon (12-1-1) won the PacWest men’s title. Cal Baptist (13-1) finished first on the women’s side ahead of Azusa Pacific (12-2) and Point Loma (9-3-2). However, since all three weren’t eligible for the postseason in their first year in the league, BYU-Hawaii (8-3-3) earned the automatic NCAA Division II tournament berth.