By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The beautiful game wasn’t always so ascetically pleasing for Waiakea girls soccer last season. The 5-7 finish wasn’t ugly, but by Warriors standards it was bland.
There were struggles on the field with chemistry and unity.
“Conflicts between the team, I guess, that brought us down,” Sabrina Scott said.
And there were struggles with the field — the Warriors didn’t have one as their school pitch was under renovation.
“We didn’t have a home,” Cheylee Octavio said. “It was hard to practice when we didn’t even have goals.
“I just think we didn’t take the season seriously.”
Waiakea lost in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals for the third consecutive season, so no member of the team has made a trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
To help remedy that, Kylie Robertson says the Warriors plan to play “pretty” soccer, which she described as a combination of crisp passes, quick touches, overlapping runs and on-the-target through balls to surging forwards.
“We’re aggressive and we communicate,” Robertson said.
First-year coach Jason Nakayama inherits a seasoned roster that could include the full complement of 11 returning starters if a few injuries heal in time for the season opener Dec. 7. Nakayama, who formerly coached at St. Joseph, has worked with most of his players for years through American Youth Soccer Association play, and he noted that the familiarity greatly eased the transition process.
“He knows our strengths and weaknesses,” Octavio said.
One of Nakayama’s objectives is to fully utilize two of those strengths in fleet-footed senior forwards Octavio, who scored a team-leading nine goals last season, and Robertson (five). Because of the pair’s ability to play off the ball, Nakayama will feature somewhat of a hybrid style. He’d like to play some possession, but he said Waiakea also will look to make long passes to take advantage of its speed and ball skills up top.
“It’s similar to boomball,” said Nakayama, a Waiakea alum.
Scott netted six goals last year and was one of the team’s primary playmakers in the midfield. The importance of her role could increase once the Warriors moves onto their new artificial turf field.
Waiakea was still practicing on a makeshift spot outside its basketball gym in the preseason, but it was hopeful that it could christen what would become only the BIIF’s second turf field — Kamehameha has the other — in time for the regular season.
“The ball moves so fast, you have to be really spread out,” Scott recalled of playing at Kamehameha. “I think we can take advantage (here) because (opponents) won’t be used to that kind of field.”
No Warriors were selected all-BIIF last season, but Scott, Octavio and Robertson earned honorable mention along with returnees Jordan Melchor, Karise Kuroda, Keisha Sato and Kassie-Lynn Miyataki.
Nakayama said he hadn’t sorted out who would play where, but Kuroda a senior who’s trying to recover from an ACL injury, Miyataki, Cierra Toledo-Muragin, Starcia DePonte and freshman Kaylee Valentino will join the offensive attack. Sato, Nikki Orevillo, Kadara Marshall, Alison Fuata and Nyla Orevillo will help form the backline in front of Melchor, a junior who stood out last season at goalkeeper.
“Her mental toughness and her vision on the ball make her strong,” Nakayama said.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of BIIF soccer previews.
Next: Hilo girls, Friday.