It was the proverbial match made in heaven.
Konawaena’s girls soccer team returned a close-knit corp, but coach Guy Miranda wondered how he would replace two key scorers lost to graduation.
Enter senior Anathena Tuppein, who had size and speed to burn and was transferring from Kealakehe.
The Wildcats became closer.
“The girls were really nice and the coach was very welcoming,” Tuppein said. “They all accepted me and we were all like sisters. It was actually very easy to blend in. Chemistry was never a problem.”
Ultimately, the Wildcats didn’t skip a beat in what became a tight, four-team Division I race. They repeated as Big Island Interscholastic Federation champions with the help of 17 goals from Tuppein, a striker who stood tallest among a stacked field and was honored by the coaches as Player of the Year.
“I was so excited to hear that I had gotten it,” Tuppein said. “I worked very hard this season and I saw how much talent there was on the field, so it was amazing.
“My coaches and my teammates pushed me to perform better each game. I have to thank my family.”
Miranda considers the honor quite an accomplishment considering the deep talent pool in Division I. Among the players who impressed him were Hilo forwards Lolly Higa and Taylor Matas.
But Tuppein left a lasting impression, converting on the championship-sealing penalty kick as the Wildcats beat the Vikings in a shootout in the league final.
All season long, Miranda said Tuppein was invaluable as she provided Konawaena with just what it needed: a player who could open up the field.
“Defenders had to pay attention to her at all times,” said Miranda, who was voted as Coach of the Year. “They always had to mark her. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Tuppein was one of seven Wildcats to make All-BIIF. Forward Kaulana Ruedy, midfielders Chloe Delaney and Pua Ubando, fullbacks Anu McRight and Star Chinen and goalkeeper Taiana Tolleson also were selected. Higa and Matas were joined by midfielders Mehana Sabado-Halpern and Delcee Ramos and defenders Harley Dela Cruz and Lii Maertens from Hilo, while Kealakehe forward Lexi Cuaresma and Keaau midfielder Tiani Tenio also made the list.
Tuppein tallied 10 goals as a junior for the Waveriders, but she said she found it easier to score as Wildcat, thanks in part to the finishing drills Miranda emphasized in practice.
What’s more, she found Kealakekua to be a more nurturing environment after making a quick bond with Miranda.
“The coaches are especially good,” Tuppein said. “No matter what happened they were really positive. I had been on teams before where it was very hard for me because we would be put down.
“Everything changed at Konawaena. I went from being somewhere where I would feel so bad if I missed a shot, to somewhere if you just try your best that’s all that your coaches and teammates want from you.”
She follows in the footsteps of Saxon Nagata, who won Player of the Year in 2013 for Konawaena.
Tuppein is running track and field this spring, and she also plays rugby and volleyball.
“But surfing and soccer are my passion. I love them both,” said the daughter of Mike and Anita Tuppein.
For college, she may buy a wet suit and club surf at San Diego State, and she’s also considering the University of Hawaii.