Two weeks after Pearl City won the Division I girls state soccer championship, head coach Frank Baumholtz III kept saying, “I’m still smiling.”
And why not? It was the team’s first state title in 19 years.
Baumholtz is usually quick to point out the difficulty of trying to get his messages across to teenagers, and on this particluar day, he was no different. It would not be incorrect to say that for Baumholtz, who is a Pearl City dentist, coaching can be like pulling teeth.
Ahhhh … that’s it … a job well done that bears the fruit of a championship is like a beautiful mouthful of white teeth. For a dentist or a coach, it can be painful to get the end result.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Prep World staffers were at the Pearl City field last Thursday to talk to Baumholtz — the coach of the year — about the season and five of his girls picked to the newspaper’s Stellar Eleven and to get their photos taken for a two-page spread that ran in in the Sunday edition.
Baumholtz said he’s watched the repeat of the state semifinal game against ‘Iolani and the final against Baldwin countless times, smiling the whole way. He has said he knew his team was talented, but he had no idea they could make the grade all the way to the title. When the Chargers won a first-round state game, he said any kind of finish would be just dandy — fourth, third, second or first.
On this day, he went down the list of his leaders, starting with freshman striker Sunshine Fontes, who scored 29 goals and who is also a member of the U.S. under-15 national team.
“They played her at fullback,” Baumholtz said of Fontes’ most recent outing with Team USA in California. “A lot of college coaches, they recruit forwards and make them defenders. Forwards have a good sense of offense. They know where they’ve got to put the ball and they realize that as a defender, they’re the last man that can stop a rush before the goal. She did get to play forward one of the last days in the camp and scored a goal, so to score a goal at that level is just incredible.”
How did a freshman make the Chargers’ roster, not to mention become the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s player of the year?
“When Sunshine came out, we were trying to decide if we should leave her on the JV because she’s going to be taking a couple of trips during the season, and then the coaches all got together and said, ‘You know what, it’s better off for us to have her here. Have everybody else know that she’s going to be with us,'” Baumholtz said. “And she was very understanding about when she came back from these trips and she had missed games and practices that she was not going to play for a while. When she came back, it was just kind of right into the groove, ice cream and cake. Peanut butter and jelly. It just went together.”
And did a freshman making the team cause problems with the older girls?
“It caused some minor irritations, but we kind of tried to talk about that, and as with anything, if a problem comes up, we’re going to solve it,” Baumholtz said “We had a couple of grade problems through the year, couple of close calls where people had to get grades up. But the kids on the bench did a great job because that’s who our competition in practice was … . There were a lot of times in practice when we couldn’t score against our subs. When we played against the JV, the JV gave us a hard time, too. Some of that’s, ‘You’re my friend, I can’t beat you. I don’t want to make you look bad.’ But overall, general picture, the whole team really kind of came together. No real bad eggs.
“I can’t stop smiling. Last night I was doing my taxes, watching the game over again, all year long we talked about only make a pass that you can connect, OK. And I was watching 35-yard passes going right to your feet, and my forwards were checking back. Brittny (Ihara) is one of the best ones at that. A 35-yard ball from Bree Fuller comes up to her, bounces up, she chests it down, knocks it back, opens up and puts the ball right to Daelenn (Tokunaga)’s feet. They called Daelenn offside, and it was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s like a college play.’ Boom, drop, back, shoot it through. If you had a metronome going, it would have been right in sync.”
And some of the problems or irritations?
“Look at Randi (he pointed to Randi Fontes, Sunshine’s older sister, a junior),” he said. “She’s got a ring in her nose. The very first game of the regular season, Daelenn’s hair came out, so she takes her hair tie off and puts it on her wrist. She’s pulling her ponytail back and the referee sees that she’s got her ponytail tie on her wrist. That’s classified as jewelry, so he comes over and gives me a yellow card. I told her, ‘Don’t overdo that. Just hold the thing in your hand until you get your hair tied up.’ Sitting there at halftime, I look at Randi and she’s got that ring in her nose. Now, if the referee had seen that, I would have gotten a red card and been thrown out of that game and the next game. I sent her in the stands up to her mother. You look at her right now, she’s still got that ring. I told her recently, ‘I’m so happy you have that nose ring. It gave me something to bitch about.’ ”
After such a special season, what was the underlying motivation?
“It really was a special season,” Baumholtz said. “It was a challenge; you had to challenge them. You had kids that were so talented. They didn’t know how good they could be. We never talked about being great. Vince Lombardi said: ‘Perfection is the goal. Excellence will be accepted.’ I said that to them a number of times throughout the year. We’re never going to be perfect. That Baldwin game, we were pretty close to perfect. We really didn’t have hardly any dirty fouls. There were some good, hard hits by both teams. It was a pretty much clean game the whole game. The referee was outstanding. I had never seen him before. He did the best game out of all of our games the whole year. He was really outstanding.”
And what about the goaltending of senior Sydney Young, who recorded a shutout in the state final?
“She’s the most improved player on the team,” the coach said. “Last year, she did a good job as the goalie. Self-confidence was probably the only thing she needed a little bit more of and when we switched into this formation that we used this whole year, it gave her more support and more confidence. She mad a couple of fabulous stops in the state tournament, one diving one to her right against ‘Iolani and another one against Baldwin, where she went up fully extended to block the shot.”
Sunshine Fontes wasn’t the only freshman to make the Stellar Eleven. Bree Fuller, a fullback, was also a first-team choice.
“Bree is super talented, but she has had it easy” Baumholtz said. “She never came across a coach like me. I’m never satisfied. Never. Everyone else says ‘Bree, you do whatever you want to do and that’s really good.’ With me, it’s, ‘You’re not good enough. You’re goofing off. You’re not stretching.’ She’s the only one in the tournament that cramped up, and I was on her for like 80 percent of the season about stretching. I coached two of her sisters and the other sister went to Kamehameha. Of all of them, she’s probably the most talented. They are Zoe, Amber and Megan the oldest, who scored one of the goals in our OIA championship game in 2008. Megan is super young lady. She was a fullback. Came on to my club team, she said, ‘I’m a fullback.’ I said, ‘Why? You don’t like playing fullback.’ She goes, ‘How do you know I don’t like playing fullback?’ I said, “I can tell you don’t like it. Why don’t you play forward.’ … ‘I’m a fullback.’ I said OK. In the games she started at fullback, she’d be past all the forwards. She’d get the ball and run the whole field. Finally, I told her she couldn’t go past midfield. And she just transformed into an outstanding forward.”
Randi Fontes, who is a motivating force in the soccer life of sister Sunshine, and Tokunaga, a sophomore who scored 26 goals, also played pivotal roles in the march to the state title.
“Randi is outstanding player,” the coach said. “She’s really got good foot skills, quick but tiny. When she was a freshman, we started matching her up against the older fullbacks and she was beating the older fullbacks, so I told the coaches, ‘We’re going to keep her on the team (instead of putting her down on the JVs).’ I could see something and she ended up scoring a third of our goals that freshman year. She’s a halfback now and an outstanding young lady. She could play in NAIA or Division III, maybe even Division II because of her abilities.
“Daelenn is just an outstanding athlete. If I was the track coach, I would be working on getting her to run track because she has explosive speed. After her freshman year, she came up with a list of things that she needed to work on and I added about four things to to it — use your left foot, teamwork, knowing where the goal is when you can’t look at it, and turn and shoot and pull the trigger early. Too often, she was touch, touch, touch, and now the defenders are all loaded. And then I posed her the question, ‘How do you beat three people?’ You pass the ball and you might get it back. That was part of the key. Those two (Tokunaga and Sunshine Fontes) picked it up. About four times, Daelenn ripped in goals from 20 yards out that were just screamers.”
Ihara, a sophomore, was chosen as an All-State honorable mention.
“One time, when both Daelenn and Sunshine were being double-teamed, Brittny scored four goals. The announcers for the ‘Iolani game (broadcast) kept saying the ‘Iolani midfield can’t get offensive. It was because of Brittny. She’s 4-foot-11 in elevator shoes. She kept pushing the ball up and they had to play defense. Every time they got the ball, they were going 70 yards, whereas when we would win the ball, we were going 35 yards. Big difference, emotionally a big difference.”