By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kamehameha’s intense start would have made any coach smile.
Still, Sonya Ah Chong noticed one key missing ingredient during the first half Thursday against Hilo.
So, even as the second half was kicking off, Ah Chong walked down the visitor’s sidelines at Hilo Bayfront toward Harper Hottendorf’s mom to discuss the pressing question.
What’s wrong with Harper?
No sooner had they both looked up then had they gotten their answer: nothing anymore.
Living large up top again, Hottendorf converted on a breakaway mere seconds after halftime, a goal that punctuated the Warriors’ 3-1 victory in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls soccer match.
“Just realized I had to step up for my team and finish,” Hottendorf said. “My head was just out of the game.”
Even if the junior was off in the first half, Sachi Iwata and Kera Akiyama more than had her covered. The Division II Warriors (2-1) crashed the net and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 14 minutes to clear another early-season hurdle.
“We realized we had to come out strong and make an impact right away,” Hottendorf said.
Still smarting from a 3-0 loss to Hawaii Prep in its opener, Kamehameha (2-1) backed its win over Waiakea on Tuesday by pushing the pace, winning loose balls and leading from virtually start to finish — thanks to Iwata’s goal in the opening minute.
“The girls decided that they wanted it today,” Ah Chong said. “Change of attitude. We kind of stepped up and said, “No, we’re a better team that this, we can do this.”
Junior Lolly Higa’s goal put the Division I Vikings (1-1) on the board late in the first half.
Whatever momentum Hilo had was quickly lost when Hottendorf took advantage of a defensive breakdown and beat senior goalkeeper Edwina DeGrood to the ball to restore the two-goal lead in the 41st minute.
“We pride ourselves on defense,” said Hilo coach Paul Bello, whose team was coming off a 4-0 victory against Waiakea in its opener Nov. 29. “We need to right this ship.”
It was Hottendorf’s first goal of the season, and there figure to be many more, especially with a talented playmaker like Akiyama in the mix.
A natural up top, Hottendorf is enjoying her transiton back to forward after stepping in for the Warriors at fullback last season.
“She had to help us out, so she did,” Ah Chong said.
Scoring’s nothing new for Akiyama. The senior netted her third goal of the season, redirecting senior Cody Kuali‘i’s ball from 8 yards out. Senior Tiffany Pacheco assisted on Iwata’s goal, sending a cross that the sophomore tapped home from 2 yards out.
“Our team is going to be awesome this year,” Hottendorf said.
Hilo held a 16-10 advantage in shots.
Kamehameha senior goalkeeper Lehua McGuire’s best save came in the second half when she dove to her left to thwart sophomore Tiani Teanio.
With freshman Kekai Wong Yuen playing sweeper, Kamehameha’s defense held strong most of the match.
Higa caught the Warriors flat-footed in one instance and made them pay, streaking down the left flank and scoring from 10 yards out for her second goal of the season.
Other than that, Hilo suffered from the same issue it had hoped to fix after falling short of states last season: lack of finishing.
“We had a our share of possession, made some changes and still didn’t finish,” Bello said. “We lost to a better team today.
“We’ve got to figure it out.”
And the Vikings better do it quickly.
They’ve got eight days off until their next match, a Dec. 15 home contest against defending D-I champion Kealakehe.
The Waveriders have already beaten Konawaena, and a win by the Waveriders in Hilo could put an early end to the drama at the top of the division.
“We can’t let them do that,” Bello said.
Hilo 3, Kamehameha 0: Senior Dane Miyata, junior Andrew Dawrs and freshman Jace Taka scored as the host Vikings won their opener.
Senior Justin Shiigi collected two assists, and junior Casey Nakatsu garnered one.
Senior Katon Pestano shut out the Warriors (1-2) on goal.