Hawaii Prep soccer coach Steve Perry takes special pride in treating his team as a completely different unit than the version of the squad he coached the year before.
That thinking helps alleviate the feeling of, “Well, we were good last year so we’ll automatically be good again this year.”
So, in Perry’s mind, instead of one large blur of Ka Makani success in the form of five straight Division II state championships, he can break it down into increments of success by a different mix of kids each year.
The latest group of Hawaii Prep girls soccer players under Perry ranks right up there with the most special, and, he admits, it’s for selfish reasons.
That’s because his daughter, fullback Julia Perry, is graduating, and so is her best friend, Mari Camacho.
Tears welled up in coach Perry’s eyes and his voice cracked after Ka Makani captured the school’s fifth straight D-II championship Saturday night with a 3-2 victory over BIIF rival Kamehameha-Hawaii.
“It’s emotional for me, personally and selfishly,” he said. “Having Julia graduate is a tough one. She’s a special girl, she’s worked hard, and she’s been on the sideline six years in a row. She practiced with us as a seventh and eighth grader. I give her a lot of credit and I’m going to miss her.”
Luckily for the coach, another Perry is still on the team. Midfielder Jenna Perry, Julia’s younger sister, will be a junior next season, and so he can wait another two years before he has to try to stop the tears from flowing again.
Camacho, who missed much of last season due to injury, will also be sorely missed, according to Perry.
“She’s Julia’s best friend,” he said. “She’s at our house a lot, one of our adopted children. We just love her. Last year was frustrating for her and she couldn’t be a part of that group as much as she was with this year’s group. I told her before the game that I’m so glad she’s an integral part of it this year. She works hard. She’s strong. She’s not the fastest girl out there, but she gets herself in good position. And she hits solid balls and her corner kicks are pretty consistent.”
Camacho set up a bang-bang play for HPA’s first goal Saturday night with a lead pass to Teah Van Bergen up the right wing. Van Bergen crossed to Emi Higgins, who one-touched it into the net.
Later, Camacho’s corner kick went to Jordan Zarate, who converted it into the winning goal.
“Yeah, I am at their house probably more than I am at my own house,” Camacho said about the Perrys. “Just having this close relationship with Julia and coach brings a different feel to the game. It’s support all around. He says I’m one of their daughters. … I’m the dark one.”
Zarate and Van Bergen are also graduating, as are midfielder Tove Fostvedt and striker Alexa Richardson. All of their other teammates are coming back.
“It was a group that was so supprotive,” coach Perry said. “As captains, Teah and Julia built a great mind-set — to take care of ourselves and not to care about all the noise going on around us.”
Ka Makani (15-2) were in a 2-2 halftime tie on Saturday with the Warriors — a team they lost to in the BIIF championship two weeks earlier — before digging deep and coming up with the type of effort they knew from experience they needed to wrap it up. It took Zarate’s goal, Camacho’s assist and everyone playing their typical tight game.
Camacho summed it up: “We focused on pouncing on every one of their touches. We were winning balls in the middle, the outside and the back. We really shut them down.”