Winning two games in a row against your rival in ILH girls soccer is mighty difficult, so that’s why ‘Iolani’s 1-0 victory over Kamehameha on Friday at Kunuiakea Stadium is not a surprise.
On Dec. 5 in the first matchup between the two teams, the Warriors escaped with a 1-0 win over the defending state champion Raiders.
Now, both are at 6-1 and continue the fight for the first-round championship and a state tournament berth that goes with it. The first round is decided by win-loss records, and Mid-Pacific (3-2-1) and Punahou (3-2-1) also have a chance in the latest standings. The team that stumbles the least from now through Jan. 15 will be the first to get in. The second round is run as a tournament with one other state berth on the line.
The Raiders’ Kelsey Takahashi was the only goal scorer Thursday, giving her team the 1-0 lead midway through the second half. It was on a rebound of a Taylor Arakaki corner kick, and there was some question on whether the ball crossed the line.
Kamehameha keeper Caela Kaio and a defender were guarding the right post on the 10-yard shot from the right. Kaio got a piece of it and appeared to fall back into the goal, and the referees ruled the ball fully crossed the line.
Without that goal, the game could have easily gone the other way. Kamehameha spent a little more time in ‘Iolani’s end, but it was the Raiders who strung passes together with more efficiency. There was rough play from both sides.
The Raiders and Warriors are without key players. ‘Iolani is missing striker Mia Watanabe, a two-time Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selection who did not go out for the team this year, according to coach Kristin Masunaga.
Masunaga said she doesn’t know why Watanabe is not playing. Kelsey Wong, an All-State defender two years in a row, did not play Thursday due to an illness. Midfielders Sierra Wheeler and Lexie Masca, and defender Taylor Venenciano also did not play for various reasons.
Kamehameha was without All-State defender Tausani Tavale, who is out for the year with an ACL injury, as well as starting striker Leah Feato, who may be back before too long.
‘Iolani gets right back to business on Monday with a big game at home against Punahou, a team the Raiders beat 1-0 on Dec. 14.
All the ILH matches are big, but another one to look out for is on Jan. 15, when Punahou visits Kamehameha to end the first round.
All teams will have a chance to bust through in the tournament that follows. The league champion does not mean the team is ultimately better, however. For instance, the Warriors captured the league crown a year ago only to watch ‘Iolani take the states.
“For us to beat Kamehameha without Kelsey and Lexie and Sierra and some others is a really good sign,” Masunaga said. “Collectively they play well together. A lot of girls stepped up today. We’ve faced a lot of adversity and it’s making them better.”
Masunaga mentioned the stellar play of Arakaki, who shut down All-State striker Kitty Black-Jones and who started most of the team’s set plays in place of Wong.
“Kitty is one of the best forwards in the state and always a threat,” Masunaga added.
Takahashi talked about her winning goal.
“We kind of practiced set plays a lot over the break and before big games,” she said. “What happened was kind of exactly what we wanted to happen and needed to happen. The goalkeeper touched it, but it went in.
“It’s going to be a long road,” she added. “We definitely want to get that first state berth as fast as we can because we have a lot of injuries and stuff. It was good that we finished our business today.”
That goal was the first one off of Kamehameha this season.
“That’s kind of crazy to think about,” Takahashi said.
Kamehameha coach Missy Moore is looking for more quick decision making from her players.
“We did a better job possessing the ball (than previously) and had an idea of what we wanted to do, but did not execute,” she said. “Our play was slow at times and that is something we need to do a better job of. Know your decisions early. Know where you’re going to go with the ball. We’re trying to build and make connections. Our defense (which was led by Carley Park, Nicole Wong and Hayley Silipa) came ready to play. The offense was a little lethargic.
“Both defenses were great, and both offenses are going through those same struggles of combining. We’re similar teams in that aspect. That’s why the games are always very close.”
As for the close call on the goal?
“I’m not sure if it went in, but I would like to see if someone has video,” Moore said. “It’s not like it matters anyway. The game is done. The whole ball has to be over. It may have been.”