Impressive ‘Iolani girls could be back for more

‘Iolani's Kelsey Wong, left, fought for a ball in the girls soccer semifinals Friday. Cindy Ellen Russell / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani’s Kelsey Wong, left, fought for a ball in the girls soccer semifinals Friday. Cindy Ellen Russell / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

One of the best things about state Division I girls soccer is that one team does not dominate the landscape.

Yes, Punahou has the most titles with 11, but it’s been since 2011 that the Buffanblu have ended their season with a win in the big game.

Each year, it seems to be a different team that gets hot. Last year, it was Pearl City. This year, it was ‘Iolani. Two years ago, it was Mililani.


It’s very hard to repeat championships, just like in pro sports.

Do the Raiders, who defeated Punahou 2-1 on Saturday night for the crown, have what it takes to get it done in 2018?

It’s way too early to tell, of course. But their young talent seems to be in abundance. Two of those highly skilled players, for example, are freshmen — wing Mia Watanabe and defender Kelsey Wong.

On Friday, Watanabe had a breakout game, scoring three spectacular goals in a 3-0 win over Mililani in the semifinals.

And on Saturday, while consummate veteran Kylee Kim-Bustillos was scoring twice, Wong was making plays left, right and middle, stopping Punahou’s dangerous offensive strikers.


Wong had blades of grass on her face during a postgame interview, most likely from the celebratory romp and pileup on the ground by the team after the huge victory. But it may have been from diving to thwart the Buffanblu all match long.

“We came to the game, wanting to win so bad,” Wong said. “On defense, our thought was nothing is going to get behind our line. We were going to do whatever it took. We worked really well the whole season.

“It feels so good, me being a freshman. I had never experienced this feeling. It’s an amazing team and I’m lucky to play with each and every one of them.”

‘Iolani coach Kristin Masunaga said this about Wong: “We watched her when she was in seventh and eighth grade, and she just really stepped up this year. Technically, she reads the game well. She’s skilled. She’s fast. She’s strong. Our defense has been strong all season. In the middle, (senior) Cambrie Motooka has been kind of mentoring her all season, and Cambrie is very talented, too. They, along with our two outside backs (sophomores Taylor Arakaki and Taylor Venenciano) held up for us.”

Fourteen of ‘Iolani’s players (seven freshmen, five sophomores and two juniors) will be back next season and eight seniors will graduate, so it appears Masunaga will have a lot to work with in that effort to be the first team to repeat as state champion since Punahou from 2009 to ’11.


“I don’t think we could have done it without those freshman and those sophomores,” Masunaga said.

Masunaga did not take the victory for granted. Afterwards, she said about the Buffanblu: “Kudos to them. They played hard to the end. We were pretty worried up to the last whistle.”

COMMENTS

  1. anywaaaays!! February 5, 2017 11:02 pm

    I said it once and Ill say it again, the ILH has unfair recruiting advantages in sports, there should never be any thoughts of unification of OIA and ILH conferences in fact the HHSAA state tournament is a detriment to the integrity of all respected leagues in all sports.

    Kahuku boys BBall (with class) scores 121 pts on Anuenue last week and the ILH coach from Kamehameha school whines about it and wants to make a big deal about “Fairness and Respecting the game” but when the ILH has both of their teams in the state tourney finals I dont hear no talk about fairness for our public OIA schools who are disadvantaged by the cherry picking of elite players into their ILH system by these same ILH coaches.

    This year it was an all ILH Girls Volleyball and Girls Soccer state finals.

    The fair thing to do would be to get rid of the HHSAA state tournament and settle on the fact that all conferences (ILH, OIA, MIF, KIF etc..) are their own seperate conferences and the winners from each conference are state champs (OIA public schools state champs, Maui public schools champs, ILH Private schools state champ etc…).

    The HHHSAA can morph into a bowl series type of tournament where the conference state champs play each other for a “bowl champion”, not state champion. The term “HHSAA state champion” sends a message that it is the best in the state when clearly there are advantages for one league (ILH) over the rest of them.

    I was watching the Girls Soccer tournament and Iolani and Punahou blasted Pearl city and Mililani in the semis. Some of the PC and MIll players were injured but had to stay in the game because they had no depth, where Iolani and Punahou had rotations where the 2nd stringers were just as good as the 1st stringers. Even the freshmen at these ILH schools were so good they were getting playing time and guess what? some of the best ILH players are from the Mililani and PC districts. Its just like Football where the ILH schools use Kahuku players to beat Kahuku at football. Even the announcer Brent Murakami said in the soccer broadcast “It would be interesting to see how good these public schools would be if their in-district players stayed home”.

    Its funny becuase this time last year after Kahuku beat St. Louis for the 2015 state title, all this talk from Cal Lee and the ILH was to unite the leagues so that the ILH can have a better season against more opponents to help their players get better. Now that Cal won this year they are not pushing the issue. These ILH coaches are the biggest whiners in the world and they know they are using the OIA as jumping boards for their players and their coaching careers.


  2. Hodad February 6, 2017 8:13 am

    Yeah, like Kahului
    Basketball doesn’t recruit


  3. fan February 6, 2017 8:34 am

    Good points Anyways, except that this was the first state title for an ILH team in 3 years. Mililani and PC won the previous 2 years. You can’t deny entire leagues a chance at a state title, even if you think it’s stacked against you. Bill Gates once said “life isn’t fair.”


  4. Education First February 6, 2017 1:43 pm

    So you are saying that the ILH recruits for Girls Soccer? HAHA. You are talking girls soccer right? Let me guess, Punahou and Iolani also recruit for tether ball, hop scotch, and cribbage?

    HAHA, you are talking girls soccer right? It has nothing to do with economics huh? These kids can afford to play club year round and improve their games and get more rep.

    Always talking recruiting. C’mon 88, it’s no different than how Villa, Fotu, and that other kid came back to Kahuku.


  5. anywaaaays!! February 6, 2017 4:43 pm

    Recruiting is not only the act of talking to kids and their parents directly. It also means having the best facilities, education, resources and prestige to draw kids in indirectly.

    I have been in the Volleyball and Soccer club scene and I can tell you 99% of the parents that pursue the ILH and get in have an elitist mentality that their kid is too good for their public school teams.

    As far as football is concerned- You play in the ILH, you stay in the ILH. Dont come begging the OIA to help fill your schedule because theres only three of you.


  6. DeeCee February 6, 2017 6:02 pm

    Many of the ‘Iolani girls came from the elementary level! I guess they scoped out the preschool playgrounds!


  7. 88 February 6, 2017 6:45 pm

    Educationa First, I am all for recruiting. If Punahou, St. Louis, Maryknoll or any other ILH school offers our kids “FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE” to attend their schools because our kids can kick, pass, throw or shoot a ball well than I have no problem. Take them all. What parent in their right mind would turn down the chance for their child to attend an ILH school? However you can’t compare Kahuku to what the ILH does because like you stated in your last sentence the kids ” came BACK to Kahuku”.


  8. Stop whining! February 6, 2017 10:15 pm

    Tired of reading all the ilh haters’ comments. Hey, my kid is a pretty decent athlete…(not trying to brag, rather make a point). Guess what? Nobody giving me money for his tuition. I pay over $20k a year for his education. You wanna know why? Cuz the damn district I live in… The education at the school cannot compare to the school he’s at. I ain’t grumbling at my choice… Just at those who keep talking about how the ilh recruits. Hell, I wish the school in my district was better than the ilh school my son is at… Then I wouldn’t need to be spending $20k a year! If the district school was educationally better, I definitely would be sending him there. Rather than hating ilh…. How about looking at the real problem… Most public schools not keeping up with the private schools. I know some of you going cry that private schools get money, blah blah blah… So I say to those… If the private schools can figure it out on how to get money… So can the public schools.


  9. Education First February 7, 2017 10:05 am

    88 February 6, 2017 at 6:45 pm
    Educationa First, I am all for recruiting. If Punahou, St. Louis, Maryknoll or any other ILH school offers our kids “FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE” to attend their schools because our kids can kick, pass, throw or shoot a ball well than I have no problem. Take them all. What parent in their right mind would turn down the chance for their child to attend an ILH school? However you can’t compare Kahuku to what the ILH does because like you stated in your last sentence the kids ” came BACK to Kahuku”.

    ——————————

    I will call a spade a spade. I agree with you. And for the record, Villa is the best basketball player in Hawaii BY FAR!


  10. Education First February 7, 2017 10:10 am

    anywaaaays!! February 6, 2017 at 4:43 pm
    Recruiting is not only the act of talking to kids and their parents directly. It also means having the best facilities, education, resources and prestige to draw kids in indirectly.
    ————————————

    @anywaaays, are you making up your own definitions? Here is the definition of “recruiting” as it pertains to athletics taken straight off of dictionary.com.

    “to seek to enroll (an athlete) at a school or college, often with an offer of an athletic scholarship.”

    So basically, going by your definition, all private schools in Hawaii recruit since most of them have superior facilities versus most DOE Schools.

    May I ask you why Assets, Hanalani, Hawaiian Mission Academy are not dominating the Athletic Landscape in Hawaii?


  11. phILHarmonic February 7, 2017 10:17 am

    Why wouldn’t you want your son or daughter to attend a private school if they are offering a generous financial aid package?
    If you knew exactly what to do to put your son/daughter on the radar of these private schools, why wouldnt you do it?


  12. Education First February 7, 2017 10:21 am

    @ Stop Whining, there are many public schools on the mainland that have campuses and facilities that are superior to most private schools in Hawaii. I went to a school in Washington to visit and the grass looked like the Pebble Beach Greens. Their had 3 gyms all fitted with AC. I asked the people I know up there, “how come the public schools are so nice.”

    Their response, “our community works hard to find, generate, and use monies for the facility upgrades.”

    I guess they do work instead of crying like many on a blog site.


  13. anywaaaays!! February 7, 2017 3:06 pm

    I dont care how much better the ILH system is over the OIA or how terrible the OIA schools do things. All im saying is that it is not an even playing field for sports so forget about ever wanting to unite the ILH conference with the OIA conference. Stay in your own lane!


  14. Education First February 8, 2017 9:57 am

    Why is anywaays crying again?


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