With 10 returning seniors from a team that won an OIA championship last season and has made the final four of the state tournament the last two years, Kapolei had no business finishing in sixth place in the OIA boys soccer playoffs.
But that’s exactly where the Hurricanes ended up after finishing second in the OIA West in the regular season. A stunning 1-0 loss to Moanalua in the quarterfinals and a 2-1 defeat against Pearl City in the fifth-place game left the Hurricanes with the OIA’s final spot in the state tournament.
That’s also exactly what OIA runner-up Kaiser did not want to see. Despite winning the OIA East regular season after winning a coin flip against Kalani and advancing to the OIA title game, the Cougars were given Kapolei as their opponent in the opening round of The Queen’s Medical Center/HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships on Monday night.
The end result was a 3-1 victory for Kapolei (11-3), which got goals from Sean Yoshida and Sam Wren in the first half, matching the two goals Kaiser had given up in all 13 of its matches coming into the game.
Kaiser (11-2-1) got one back when Bay Nickerson beat two defenders down the left side of the field and found Noah Mokulehua on a cross in the middle for a goal in the 50th minute. The two-goal differential proved to be too tough to make up and Kapolei took advantage of a mistake in Kaiser’s end of the field to score a third time in the 79th minute for the final margin.
For Kaiser coach Layne Abalos, the outcome was exactly what he dreaded as soon as he saw the brackets.
“I said it from the beginning. That’s the team you don’t want to play,” Abalos said. “That’s the worst time you want to play a team like that. Kapolei is a dangerous team. They’re going to make some noise (in the state tournament).”
Kapolei coach Ryan Lau hadn’t been able to get his team, stocked with returning talent, to play at the level he had wanted all season. That changed with the beginning of the state tournament.
“What we wanted to take away from the OIA tournament was we wanted to make sure the state saw the best of what we are capable of and we thought we had not done that this year,” Lau said. “As far as the time of the year and being at this stage, I think this is the best game we have played.”
Yoshida’s goal in the seventh minute got Kapolei going early, but it was the second goal off a set piece that really made the Hurricanes happy.
Yoshida flicked a header off a throw-in to Wren, who blasted a header of his own into the net for a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
It was the first goal Kaiser had given up all season off a set piece.
“We’ve been practicing that every day,” Yoshida said. “The first thing we’ve done after our warm-up was practice that set piece.”
Added Lau: “Ever since the Moanalua loss we have been practicing that every day. We knew in the state tournament the run-up play gets a little harder to create goals. Sometimes in big games you’ve got to have at least quality on the restarts. Those restarts can sometimes create chances.”
The Hurricanes move on to play MIL champion Baldwin in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Kaiser, which had only given up goals in a 1-1 tie against OIA champion Kalani in the the regular season and in a 1-0 loss to the Falcons in the OIA final, sees its season come to an end.
“The good thing about (the OIA playoffs) is we had a second chance. Here in the state tournament, you don’t have a second chance,” Lau said. “We got caught up in the uncontrollables. We let ourselves think we could show up and win and that’s a lesson learned.
“We’re a very skilled team but it’s going to come down to effort at this point.”
|1||Feb. 12||'Iolani vs. Moanalua||Iol, 4-0||'Iolani|
|2||Feb. 12||Kaiser vs. Kapolei||Kapo, 3-1||Kaiser|
|3||Feb. 12||King Kekaulike vs. Pearl City||KK, 2-1||War Memorial Stadium|
|4||Feb. 12||Waiakea vs. Mililani||Mil, 3-1||Waiakea|
|5||Feb. 15||(4) Baldwin vs. Kapolei||Bald, 2-0||Waipahu|
|6||Feb. 15||(2) Kalani vs. King Kekaulike||KK, 2-1||Waipahu|
|7||Feb. 15||(3) Hawaii Prep vs. 'Iolani||HPA, 2-1||Waipahu|
|8||Feb. 15||(1) Punahou vs. Mililani||Pun, 3-0||Waipahu|
|9*||Feb. 16||Kapolei vs. Mililani||Kapo, 5-2||Waipio|
|10*||Feb. 16||Kalani vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 1-0||Waipio|
|11||Feb. 16||King Kekaulike vs. Hawaii Prep||HPA, 3-2||Waipio|
|12||Feb. 16||Baldwin vs. Punahou||Bald, 3-1||Waipio|
|13*||Feb. 17||Kapolei vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 1-0||Waipio|
|14*||Feb. 17||King Kekaulike vs. Punahou||Pun, 2-1||Waipio|
|15||Feb. 17||Hawaii Prep vs. Baldwin||PPD., co-champs||Waipio|
|* — consolation|