You can talk about skill and talent and effort in soccer, but Ingredient X is necessary to make it all work.
Take Thursday’s OIA semifinals for instance. You would have to be ignoring your surroundings if you didn’t notice it. We’re talking about passion.
Let’s start with Kahuku coach Jay Hix. Well, he’s a chirper, and it doesn’t appear that you’d ever be able to say the man isn’t into coaching.
Here are just some of Hix’s verbal messages to the Red Raiders:
“We gotta go hard or we’re going home. … They’re dictating; we’ve got to dictate. … I need heart. … They’re winning every ball; they want it more than us. … Clap for their beautiful goal; that’s what happens when you don’t play defense. … Don’t ever tell me ‘no.’ … We’re going to get two (goals). … Who wants it more? … You guys are standing still. … I need heart; I need players who are going to give me heart.”
OK, Hix was saying most of this when the Red Raiders were trailing Moanalua 1-0 and then 2-0, and some of it was after they cut the deficit to 2-1.
At one point, with time running out, Hix started running toward an out-of-bounds ball that caromed right off a stone wall in back of a chain link fence and right back over the fence and into Hix’s hands. Like a hot potato, or a last-gasp, two-handed basketball chest pass for a final-second shot, Hix threw it to one of his players, who made the throw-in.
Simply put, it’s obvious Hix cares and he tries to transfer that passion for his sport to his players, and it worked in Kahuku’s comeback bid that fell short. The Red Raiders were no longer standing around. Instead, they were all moving together with purpose.
After the game, Hix was to the point: “We didn’t come to play, didn’t perform. I was happy with our first 10 minutes and our last 10 minutes. Other than that, nobody really wanted it enough.”
Kamaile Aluli, who scored Kahuku’s only goal, said the game was moving too fast for her to hear much of what the coach was saying.
She was somewhat emotional after the loss, which was the Red Raiders’ first of the season and put them into Saturday’s third-place match against Mililani.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” she said about the goal. “It’s rough, but we lost to a good team. We respect them. To make it this far is an accomplishment.”
Kahuku (9-1-2) is also gearing up for the state tournament, as is Saturday’s opponent, Mililani, along with the two teams playing for the OIA title Saturday night — Campbell and Moanalua.
The passion was not limited to the Kahuku camp.
Moanalua coach Nikki Dela Pena credited her players for having the want-to to hold on for that win.
“In our regular-season game against them (a 2-0 Kahuku win Jan. 17), we didn’t do so well,” she said. “Tonight we got to every single ball and denied them and got in front of them and caused turnovers.
“Our strong senior class really pushed our underclassmen,” she said. “They showed them and told them how much they wanted it. Kahuku is a physical team and we battle every year. We both bring out the best in each other. For us now, it’s ‘How far do you want to go?’ ”
Hailey Graham, a senior, factored in both goals for Na Menehune (10-2-1), including a nice cross to Shania Mohika for what turned out to be the game-winner.
“Actually, I was trying to shoot and it didn’t turn out as a shot,” Graham said. “But I knew someone would be there. I had faith. We always practice that type of play where someone will be running in.”
For Campbell in its big upset over Mililani (10-1-1), the devotion and spirit for the team cause were overwhelming and may have been what pushed them through against the talent-rich Trojans. In the regular season, the Sabers (10-2-1) were clearly outclassed by Mililani, 3-0.
“Campbell is a great team,” Kasey Isobe of the Trojans said. “They came at us from the get-go.”
Isobe called the loss “heartbreaking” and was still crying real tears 15 minutes after the loss.
According to Campbell assistant coach James Curran, the team was prepared for coming through in the clutch, no matter what.
“During a chalk talk, we discussed Russell Wilson’s performance (in the NFC championship comeback win over Green Bay) with the girls,” Curran said. “He played terrible for three quarters and then look what happened.
“Our goal was to win every 50-50 ball, and when we did, to then immediately start the attack.”
The Sabers did, indeed, win a high percentage of those important battles.
Campbell midfielder Aliani Lorenzo, whose control and ball distributing played a big part in the win, listed one more ingredient to the team’s success: Teamwork.
“It takes each and every individual giving it their best for the team,” she said. “It is not about any one individual.”
Any soccer coach will tell you that teamwork is ultra important, but always remember to add a dash of Ingredient X.