By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The baseball field at Waiakea High is a tight fit after school on some days.
As the baseball team runs conditioning drills on the diamond, the girls soccer team practices in left field. The Lady Warriors have one goal to work with, but none of the other traditional markings of a soccer field.
With the school’s usual pitch under renovation, the boys team is off on another part of campus with the other goal.
Even worse, both programs have seen a recent depletion in numbers coming up through their feeder schools, causing a gap in talent and upperclassmen.
Girls coach JoBette Nabarro estimates that’s she’ll have 15 players and just two seniors today when the Warriors open the season at Bayfront against Hilo, compared to the 28 she started with last year. The match with the Vikings will mark the first time this season that Waiakea’s been on a field with two goals.
“We’re going through very bad circumstances right now,” Nabarro said. “Very bad. We have no junior varsity. We’re struggling to have a varsity.”
Waiakea can usually pencil itself in to a spot in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals, but this season could be a challenge.
“We should be Division II,” Nabarro said. “It’s a rebuilding year.”
Junior Cheylee Octavio never envisioned this happening at Waiakea, but she and her teammates intend to press on, nevertheless.
“We have a pretty tight team this year and we’re all closely bonded, so I think that will give us an advantage,” Octavio said. “It’s going to be a rough season, of course, but I think we can make things happen.
“We all communicate with each other, so it makes it an easier game.”
Looking out at her makeshift practice field, Nabarro’s not crazy about her numbers, but she likes who she has. The Warriors had a bumper crop of freshmen last season, and though a few transferred away, Nabarro will look for Octavio to provide leadership to what she sees as a solid nucleus.
Just exactly where everyone will play is still a work-in-progress.
Sophomore Sabrina Scott, the leading returning goal scorer from last year, will play striker with junior Kylie Robertson. Octavio played forward last season, but she could be utilized at any offensive position this year.
Junior Karise Kuroda will try to control play at center midfield, and Nabarro will use sophomore Keisha Sato as “an all-around player.”
Sophomore Kassie-Lynn Miyataki is the lone returning player on the backline, and she’ll play in front of sophomore Jordan Melchor, who Nabarro called “the best goalkeeper on the island.”
Freshman Cierra Muragin will be counted on to make an immediate impact.
As usual, Nabarro opted against having Waiakea play any preseason matches, in part to prevent injuries.
“Because we have no preseason, we’re hungry to play,” she said.
And with little depth, avoiding injuries will be key. Especially in what are likely to be physical encounters with fellow D-I foes Hilo, Kealakehe and Konawaena.
Asked about a realistic goal, Nabarro said: “Finish strong.”
“We have no all-stars on this team. I love these girls, though,” she said. “Everyone works hard equally together. It’s a rebuilding year. We’ll take it as it comes.”