By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Ziggy Korytoski likes to pay attention to every detail. So when he turns around at practice and sees two players who aren’t, he explodes.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Korytoski yells as his anger rises until he’s barely understandable. “What are you doing? This is how we get exposed. You have two (players) who won’t speak up. You have one job to do. Do the job when you need to do the job.”
It’s early on a rainy Sunday morning, and it’s just another high-energy University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s soccer practice. The first-year Vulcans coach figures if he’s demonstrative now, it’ll cut down on mistakes and embarrassment later. Practice is his time, and while he says he’ll never fault a player for a result during a match, lack of preparation drives the well-schooled coach crazy.
“This wasn’t even one of the more intense (practices),” junior Rayden Bala said. “It can get a lot more intense.”
Junior Ikaika Fuerte redshirted last season after transferring from Hawaii Pacific and watched from the sidelines as UHH finished 2-13-2. He says that Korytoski’s disciplined approach has given a much-needed jolt to a program that hasn’t tasted a whole lot of success in its first six years.
“It’s a big-time culture change. Every single practice is intense,” Fuerte said. “I like to be pushed and he’s doing that to every single one of us, mentally and physically. Breaking us down. Breaking our bad habits.”
Last season when players showed up late to practice, Fuerte said there were no consequences. Now, players who show up late face peer pressure. “This year people don’t do it,” he said. “If they do, the rest of the team runs.”
There’s a new soccer sheriff in town, and the Big Island newcomer has a big vision for his program and what it can mean to the community.
Among Korytoski’s ambitions:
— He’d like to see the Vuls, who were outscored 43-8 in 2011, allow between 12 to 20 goals this season, while scoring 30 times, though he admits the latter may be “a little far-fetched.”
— 1,000 fans at a match this season at the Vulcans’ baseball field. The home opener is Sept. 22.
— The program’s first NCAA Division II tournament appearance. “The sooner the better,” he said, before turning to an even larger goal. “I think you can win a national championship at this program as long as the support comes from the administration.”
— A new stadium in the next few years in which the Vuls draw 3,000-5,000 fans. “If we reach out to the community and have an attractive product, people are going to pay to see it.”
— A preseason tournament that draws Division I teams, similar to college basketball’s Maui Invitational. Oh, and Korytoski wants the Vuls to not just play but beat those D-I teams.
While others may think some if not all of the expectations are unrealistic, Korytoski asks, “Why can’t we do it in Hilo?”
He calls himself a student of the game and certainly has the credentials, owning the second-highest coaching license from the Union of European Football Associations and the highest from the U.S. federation. At 35, he’s jumped around between pro and college jobs to quench his thirst for knowledge, leading an Antigua pro team to a 38-10-13 record and a promotion to the first division in Guatemala.
Since being hired in June, Korytoski’s hit the ground running in the community, holding camps and clinics for players and coaches in Hilo and Kailua-Kona, both to be resource and to rally support. “We play for each other, we play for Hilo and we play to be champions,” Korytoski said. “I want the community to be the face of the program, and the team to be the face of the school and the island.
“This is about more than being a soccer coach. It’s about building an environment.”
He’s laying the groundwork for what he hopes becomes a juggernaut, and the first step on that road starts at noon today when the reworked Vulcans open their season against Montana State-Billings in Honolulu. There is, however, plenty of work to be done.
While Korytoski appreciates the foundation that was left by former coach Bryan Greene, he says there are tactical deficiencies.
“I don’t think they had very many ideas of how to get (the ball) in the (net),” said Korytoski, the program’s fourth head coach. “It starts with details. You can’t cheat the game. It’s a crash course right now, but they’re responding pretty well.”
After finishing last season on a 12-match winless streak, UHH’s starting lineup won’t have a senior but it will have six new Vulcans, including true freshmen James Yamane, a Waiakea graduate, and Hilo graduate Max Darris, as well as redshirt freshman Joshua Robinson, who won a state title with Honokaa in 2011.
Bala (Kealakehe, 2010) led the team in points last year with just five as the Vulcans suffered through a five-match scoring drought at mid-season.
He’ll start up top with Yamane and Ian Watanabe, a Waiakea graduate who saw time in 15 matches last season, in a group that will try to play with much more pace and expertise.
“The forwards are really determined. We’re just looking to penetrate and move the ball a lot faster,” Bala said. “Our knowledge is greatly improved this year, and there’s more precision on the ball.”
Yamane’s technical skill and hard work in the preseason caught his coach’s attention, and Robinson and Darris also made good impressions with their speed and athleticism on the backline. Robinson started at forward for the Dragons but will man center fullback for the Vuls along with Rhyen Eugenio, a sophomore with 13 starts under under his belt. Sophomore Landon Salvador, who started 15 matches last season, is the right back.
Korytoski expects solid play from 6-foot-2 junior goalkeeper Yonha Adrabi. The transfer is the only player on the roster who Korytoski added after he was hired.
Fuerte and Aaron Sanchez, a junior who redshirted in 2011, are at midfield along with junior Phillip Sakaba (13 starts in 2011).
Sanchez and Adrabi, both from California, are the only starters not from Hawaii.
Gerald Walsh, a Makua Lani graduate and one of the three seniors on the team, will provide depth at midfield, while Kealakehe product Lane Lorenzo will do the same at forward. The sophomore showed flashes at time last season, tying for the team high with two goals.
If things go according to plan, Yamane’s college career will follow a similar path to his time in high school. The Warriors improved each year and secured state trips during his junior and senior seasons.
Right now, it’s mind over matter.
“We’re trying to create a culture around trying to be champions and the team is welcoming it,” Yamane said. “Training really hard and putting it into everybody’s head that we’re going to win games.”