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Konawaena beats Hilo in PKs to repeat


Tribune-Herald sports writer

KEAAU — After a 100 minutes of many twists and turns and a few scrapes and burns, Konawaena and Hilo hadn’t decided a thing.

Two stellar girls soccer teams not used to losing were, perhaps predictably, on equal footing. But goalkeeper Wildcats’ goalkeeper Taiana Tolleson had reason to like her chances.

“I felt like we had it,” she said. “We practice PKs every day.”

Every day?

“Every day,” she said.

It showed. Certainly as Tolleson stood in goal, and most definitely when her four teammates calmly walked to the penalty-kick line to secure a second consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I championship for Konawaena. The Wildcats were the last team standing in a 1-0 victory against the Vikings after a shootout at Paiea Field.

“I was a little nervous, but we practice that a lot,” said Anathena Tuppein, who was tasked with providing the clinching PK and buried it for an insurmountable 4-2 advantage, setting off a celebration for Konawaena.

“They’re a very tough team to beat, but we’ve been practicing really hard every day. We pull through and believe in each other.”

The Wildcats (9-1-2), who have won eight straight since losing to Hilo at home on Dec. 21, earned a seeded berth and a bye at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament at Waipio Penisula Soccer Complex on Oahu. Hilo (9-2-2), which hadn’t lost since Dec. 11, will join them. States runs Wednesday through Saturday.

Neither Tolleson nor Hilo goalkeeper Jordyn Breitbarth allowed a goal in the BIIF playoffs. The Wildcats were mere minutes away from a shootout against Kealakehe in the semifinals, but advanced 1-0 on Kaulana Ruedy’s goal.

“I feel like we work really well together,” Tolleson said. “We are very bonded as a team and we know what to do as a team. And when it’s time to get the job done, we get the job done.”

The Vikings got behind the eight ball right away when Delcee Ramos hit the right post to begin the shootout. Konawaena’s Jetahn McRight, Shayli Nakamoto and Alissa Nahale-Bianco converted to apply more pressure on Hilo, which got PKs from Lolly Higa and Jasmine Smeraglia.

Tolleson made the one save of the shootout, ranging to her right to deny Mehana Sabado-Halpern, setting the stage for Tuppein.

Why did Tolleson go to her right? Probably because the Wildcats practice PKs every day.

“I guessed right,” Tolleson said. “Most of my teammates go to my right. So I just figured maybe most of them would to the right.”

Konawaena had the more consistent surges in the first half, while Hilo the advantage at times in the second half.

Both teams had harrowing moments during the last 20-plus minutes.

The 80-minute regulation concluded with Nakamoto trying to get a shot off from the center of the penalty box, but she ended up on the turf after contact as the horn sounded.

In the first overtime, Tuppein was fouled just outside the box, and Breitbarth snared Mikala Fernandez’s blast on a direct kick from about 21 yards out.

The Vikings had two prime chances to win their first title since 2011 in the second OT. Off a direct kick, Taylor Matas had good positioning near the front of goal and chipped a cross directly at Tolleson. Then Ramos had a head of steam and got a good look up close, but she sent ball well over the crossbar.

On Wednesday night, Tolleson told Stephens Media Hawaii she was “thankful” the match with Kealakehe didn’t go to PKs.

On Saturday night, everyone wearing green was thanking her.


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