By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
As if Hilo needed any extra motivation heading into Wednesday’s match against Keaau, it carried the painful reminder of last year’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation semifinal loss in penalty kicks. That setback to Waiakea kept the Vikings from taking their customary trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association boys soccer tournament.
Justin Shiigi said the prospect of finishing his career with a two-year state void was none too tempting.
“It was a big for the team to motivate us,” Shiigi said. “We didn’t want to lose like last year. That wasn’t fun. Especially not our senior year.”
Shiigi and senior Dane Miyata each scored twice at Hilo Bayfront and the Vikings erased any lingering doubts with a crisp performance during a 5-2 victory against the Cougars in the Division I playoffs to secure a state spot.
Hilo can only hope to duplicate its fast start in its next match: Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship against defending champion Kealakehe (13-0-1) at Konawaena High School.
The Vikings are looking to regain the crown they last won in 2011, but they’ll need a stronger opening act than the one they got off to Jan. 15 at Hilo Bayfront against the Waveriders. Kealakehe grabbed a quick two-goal lead in the first two minutes, then withstood a Shiigi goal and walked away with a 3-1 victory.
“A defensive letdown,” Shiigi said.
“We didn’t come out hard, and they got the two early goals,” Miyata said. “After that we kind of stepped it up. I think it will be a good game on Saturday.”
Slow starts have been commonplace for Hilo this season, but Miyata says the Vikings have exhibited recent signs of turning the corner.
“We’ve been trying to be more intense in warmups and stuff. I think the last couple of games have been a good energizer for us. It was a good confidence booster for our team,” he said.
Hilo exuded both confidence and energy early in the semifinal.
The Cougars (3-9-2) had the initial surge of the match, garnering a corner kick and the first scoring chance. But by the time they took their next shot — Matthew Shimabukuro’s goal just before halftime — the Vikings had already excited their dominance.
Hilo fired 13 straight shots and took a 4-0 lead, courtesy of Miyata’s second score in the 34th minute.
The Vikings had a 14-2 advantage in shots at halftime and 24-5 for the match.
“We came out well, but when they got the one goal we got our heads down and it was hard to get back on our feet,” Keaau coach Richard Handy said.
Miyata found free reign on the left flank for much of the contest, giving Hilo a 1-0 lead on a breakaway in the seventh minute. A few minutes later he broke in all alone again, but Justin Quesada came up with a nice save.
“Had a lot of room, probably could have had the hat trick,” said Miyata, who at one point drew a teammate’s ribbing for not using his left foot.
“I definitely need to work on the left foot a little bit,” he said with a smile.
Senior Kevin Crutchfield slotted home a shot in the box in the 20th minute, and Shiigi corralled a loose ball off a corner kick and converted two minutes later.
The second half was more even, and Spencer Hanza made matters interesting in the 46th minute when a ball rebounded off goalkeeper Noah Catcho and he capitalized to cut the deficit to 4-2.
“I thought we did really well in the second half,” Handy said. “Nice ball movement. Really proud of the team. Learned a lot about soccer in a couple of months.”
Quesada made a fine stab tab to redirect a Nick Carter shot over the crossbar, but he had no shot at stopping Shiigi’s blast from 25 yards out, a goal that capped the scoring.
Catcho, a sophomore, and senior Chris Torrison split time in goal for Hilo in place of normal keeper Katon Pestano. The senior had to sit out the match after drawing a red card in the regular-season finale, but he’s expected back for the final.
“We had a little bit of trouble with the goals being scored, but the key was getting through to the finals healthy,” Shiigi said. “We didn’t want anybody injured, and we successfully did that.”
The state tournament runs Feb. 6-9 at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex on Oahu.
Kealakehe 7, Waiakea 1: Avery Hardie-Jordan had a hat trick, and Alex Grace-Double scored his first two goals of the season as Waveriders bounced back from their lone blemish of the season in a big way to earn a trip to states.
The Warriors ended their season 3-11.
The Waveriders ended their regular season with a 0-0 tie at Konawaena last Thursday, marking the only time the team had been shut out all year. Going into the match, Kealakehe had scored at least two goals in each of its previous 12 matches.
The Waveriders’ offense got back on track against the Warriors, with the first of Hardie-Jordan’s three goals — the senior has scored 20 times this season — giving Kealakehe a 2-0 lead 15 minutes into the match. Then Grace-Double, a freshman, turned two passes from Keoni Yates into goals in the 39th and 50th minutes to make it 4-0.
Sophomore Marc Takahashi tallied his fifth goal and one assist while senior Jason Kuwada bagged his third goal on a penalty kick. Junior Scott Henderson collected two assists, and sophomore Nick Joersz had one.
Junior Hajime Hayano scored his team-high 12th goal for Waiakea.