Tuesday | January 16, 2018
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BIIF soccer preview: What’s done is done, Kamehameha will try to rise above again

Quick quiz.

Name the only BIIF soccer team that has the luxury of returning a loaded roster complete with not one but two players who have committed to play in college at Division I?

Hint: They aren’t a dynasty.

The answer: Kamehameha’s girls – super-talented yet hardware-deprived.

The perpetual BIIF runner-up in Division II, the Warriors’ losses to Hawaii Prep in the past six championship matches have run the gamut, from blowouts to competitive matches to heart-breakers.

Last year’s 1-0 loss in the final could be classified as a head scratcher of sorts.

“I think we definitely had the opportunity to win,” senior co-captain Hiwa Brown said, “and in my opinion we should have won. We just couldn’t capitalize on all the opportunities that we did have.”

No, the ball didn’t bounce the Warriors way in the title game. Yes, this is becoming a trend.

Last season looked like it was going to be different, especially in the early-going. Kamehameha dealt Hilo its first loss in two years, then Hevani Haunga scored four times as the Warriors dazzled Hawaii Prep in Waimea.

Ka Makani shored a few things up and earned a 1-1 draw near the end of the regular season at Kamehameha, but the Warriors were unbeaten heading into title game on their home field when the well dried up. HPA’s Emi Higgins scored an early goal and, despite its best efforts, coach Joshua Woodard said Kamehameha “just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net that night.”

Ka Makani had an eighth straight BIIF title and went on to win their four consecutive HHSAA championship.

But that’s enough about last season – the Warriors certainly aren’t harping on the past.

“We’re expecting a lot of each other, that’s what’s driving this year,” Brown said. “We’re not searching for an end goal, we’re just trying to do what we can.”

Keane Farias, another senior co-captain, agreed. This season isn’t about redemption, it’s about starting with a clean slate.

“I think it’s really important that we learn about each other, our abilities and everybody on the team,” she said, “because we don’t have the numbers that we normally do.”

The roster is smaller than last year’s, but nine starters return.

Haunga, the other senior co-captain, scored 13 goals last season and has verbally committed to UNLV along with junior Kaila Ambrosio. Those two will join Brown in the midfield, Haunga as a play-making attacking mid and Ambrosio as a holding mid, providing a physical presence.

“Tough, aggressive, with an attitude,” Woodard said, “and she can make penetrating passes.

Kamehameha has an ample number of players who can run those through-balls down, including junior Kiara Cuyo and seniors Kailey Aiona and Hi’ilei Wong-Yuen. The options at fullback are juniors Saige DeMotta and Joey Cootey, senior Faith Aurello could play on the backline or at midfield and senior Kiani Troy returns at goalkeeper.

Freshman Anela Manuia could make an impact as well.

“Practice is where it happens,” said Haunga, who is among the best female athletes at her school. “We have to work our hardest. Whatever we give is what we are going to get.”

She is the player the Warriors want to have with the ball at her feet when the game is on the line, but she doesn’t remember feeling like a marked woman last season. If opposing defenses started to pay her extra attention, she didn’t see it, and as for the pressure to score, she doesn’t feel it.

“Every game I try to score if it’s my chance to score, but I also try to set up my teammates,” she said. “Whoever is in the right spot at the right time, that person, it’s going to be their job to finish it.”

Kamehameha preseason includes a rare appearance at Ka Makani Classic. On Friday, the Warriors play Maui’s King Kekaulike, on the opposite side of the bracket from HPA.

Since Ka Makani is in the Red division (along with Hilo and Waiakea) and the Warriors – unfortunately, Woodard said – are in the middle-tiered White division (along with Konawaena, Makua Lani and Honokaa), Kamehameha and HPA will meet just once during the regular season, Dec. 7 in Waimea.

Of course, it would surprise few if they hooked up again Feb. 3 at Konawaena for their seventh consecutive BIIF championship match.

“We just want to get better every game,” Woodard said. “Besides that one (last year), we’re playing well the whole season.

“We just want to get up our work rate and be consistent.”


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