By KYLE GALDEIRA
Stephens Media Hawaii
HONOLULU — In the moments leading up to Saturday evening’s championship tilt with rival Mid-Pacific, Hawaii Prep coach Stephen Perry had a simple yet powerful message for his squad: “They’re not going to give it to us—we have to rip it away.”
Ka Makani did just that, and pulled out a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over the Owls in the championship match of the Hawaii High School School Athletic Association girls Division II soccer tournament Saturday evening at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
With the score knotted at 1-1 in the match’s first 10-minute overtime frame, Hawaii Prep continued to push the tempo and used an aggressive offensive front to create space in the attacking half. In the 86th minute, sophomore forward Marlie Mandaguit lobbed an outlet pass to midfielder Nanea Tavares. The senior received the pass, and as Mid-Pacific goalkeeper Sarah Poppinga appeared to hesitate and rock backwards, Tavares evaded the last line of defense and deposited the ball into the net.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Tavares said as she labored to catch her breath. “We worked really hard to get where we are…I love this team.”
Ka Makani’s victory carried extra weight for the program, which was eliminated by Mid-Pacific in the championship game of both the 2012 (1-0) and 2013 (2-0) state tournaments, and was also sent home by the Owls in the semifinal round of the 2011 tourney.
While Hawaii Prep controlled the action for most of the opening half, Mid-Pacific broke the stalemate on a set play as Owls midfielder Janaye Shepherd scored with 13:19 remaining in the period. The versatile Shepherd took a free kick in her attacking half just past midfield—more than 40 yards away—and lobbed an intended through pass right at Ka Makani goalkeeper Morgan Monahan, who misjudged the skipping ball that bounded just inside the right goal post for the match’s first score.
Top-seeded Mid-Pacific (6-7-2) did its best to hold the lead, and withstood an early barrage of shots Hawaii Prep’s stable of attackers. Ka Makani, which outshot the Owls 23-7 in the match, notched the equalizer in the 72nd minute as Bri Vallente—who finished the tourney with four goals—knocked in a loose ball that ricocheted around the goal box and found the tenacious forward’s boot.
“We were really down on ourselves at first, but we got back up and realized that we were just down one goal,” said Tavares when asked if her squad panicked at all following the early deficit. “We came right back and worked really hard. We lost to them (in the finals) two years in a row, and it just feels great to come back. I respect them, and they’re a great team, but we were the better team tonight.”
The victory netted Hawaii Prep its first state soccer title, and represents the school’s 14th overall state crown. The championship is the first for a Big Island Interscholastic Federation competitor since Kamehameha-Hawaii won the Division II banner in the tournament’s second year in 2008.
The second-seeded Hawaii Prep squad improved to 13-2-1 on the season, and the five-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation champions ended up outscoring their five postseason opponents 28-1.
“They worked their butts off,” Perry said with a smile as he watched his team celebrate. “The thing about this year is we were the aggressor, we were the one pushing forward through that second half and overtime instead of hoping for a break.”