Defending champion Kapolei looks the part as it gets back to OIA final

Kapolei's Elijah Hines (7) celebrates with teammates Kawika Kelii, right, and Cypress Navarro-Acio after his goal against Kalaheo. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Kapolei is back in the OIA boys soccer championship game, trying to win its second title in a row.

After dispatching Kalaheo 2-0 in the semifinals at home on Thursday night, the Hurricanes (11-0-1) earned the right to play Kalani on Saturday night, also at home. The Falcons (11-1-1), the OIA champs in 2018, are out to get the title they relinquished to Kapolei a year ago.

“Kalani is the type of team that’s not going to beat themselves,” Hurricanes co-head coach Ryan Lau said. “We gotta earn it. We gotta make the most of our chances. When they do create, they really seize their opportunities and they’re very gritty.”

Elijah Hines gave Kapolei a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 11th minute. Kawika Kelii made it 2-0 18 minutes later on a penalty kick.

Try as they might with 26 total shots and many golden chances, the Hurricanes could not score again.

Braden Uehara, the goalkeeper for the Mustangs (10-2), was busy, somehow getting to some tough shots during wild Kapolei offensive flurries. He got some help from defender Tristan Atwater, who showed up at the goal line to knock away what looked like a sure Hurricanes goal in the second half.

“We kept on fighting,” Uehara said. “We had to keep the positive energy. We came a long way, man. We knew we had a solid group of players and that we could put up a fight in D-I. Tristan’s my man. He and Kainoa (Adam Ferguson) are solid and they were going to keep fighting no matter what.”

A year ago, the Mustangs were playing one level down — in Division II, where they earned the league title.

There was no guarantee they would be successful after moving up.

“It’s a learning process for us, going up to D-I,” Mustangs coach John Nakagawa said. “They’re learning this level of competition, especially in the playoffs. I’m very proud of them. They’re proud of themselves. That’s the important thing. They feel like they gave it their best effort. We started to adjust to their speed of play.”

With about 2:35 left in the match, Kalaheo’s Atreyu Ramos put a scare into Kapolei by drilling a shot from around the penalty-kick area that rattled the left goal post.

“I thought we gave a solid effort,” Kapolei’s Lau said. “We didn’t really give up too many chances except for that one near the end. We had good team play. The ball was moving and we had pretty good chances. This is the time of year where we are starting to put a solid 80 minutes together.

“Hats off to Kalaheo. They’re tough. They play physical. They work together. Our guys stuck with it and played with great composure. We just kept playing our game. Playing for the OIA championship (Saturday) is a big opportunity for us.”

Added Kelii, who is a junior and a big part of many of Kapolei’s offensive thrusts: “We gotta go in (to the title game) humble and bring the intensity from the first 10 minutes to the last whistle. Stay humble and grind.”

Kapolei has four overall OIA D-I titles — in 2007, ’11, ’17 and ’19.

Kalani owns two OIA D-I championships — in 2016 and ’18. In Thursday’s first semifinal at Kapolei, the Falcons advanced on Travis Brubaker‘s header off an Ethan Senter direct kick with 35 seconds left in the second overtime that gave them a 2-1 victory over Kaiser.

The four semifinal teams along with Pearl City and Mililani, who play in the league’s fifth-place game Friday night, have qualified for the Feb. 10-15 state D-I tournament.

Kalaheo and Kaiser square off in the third-place match at Aiea, also Friday night.

OIA Playoffs

Updated: Feb. 1
First round
1/27Kailua* (E4)Waianae (W5)Kail, 2-0
1/27Pearl City (W3)Kahuku (E6)PC, 1-0
1/27Kalani** *E3) Radford (W6)Kaln, 3-0
1/27Campbell** (W4)Moanalua (E5)Moan, 1-0
1/28Kapolei (W1)KailuaKapo, 5-1
1/28Kalaheo*** (E2)Pearl CityKalh, 3-1
1/28Mililani**** (W2)KalaniKaln, 2-1 (PKs)
1/28Kaiser (E1)MoanaluaKais, 3-0
Consolation semifinals — At Pearl City
1/29KailuaPearl CityPC, 2-1
1/29MililaniMoanaluaMil, 4-0
Semifinals — At Kapolei
1/30KapoleiKalaheoKapo, 2-0
1/30KalaniKaiserKaln, 2-1 (OT)
Fifth place — At Aiea
1/31Pearl CityMililaniMil, 3-1
Third place — At Aiea
1/31KaiserKalaheoKais, 3-2
Championship — At Kapolei
2/1KalaniKapoleiKapo, 5-0
First round — At Aiea
1/29Aiea (W2)Farrington (E3)Aiea, 3-0
1/29McKinley (E2)Waialua (W3)McK, 2-0
Semifinals — At Castle
1/30Waipahu (W1)McKinleyWaip, 2-0
1/30Castle (E1)AieaAiea, 3-1
Third place — At Kapolei
2/1McKinleyCastleCas, 2-1 (3-2 PKs)
Championship — At Kapolei
2/1WaipahuAieaAiea, 2-1
* — @ Pearl City
** — @ Farrington
*** — @ Kapolei
**** — @ Kaiser


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