Kalani and Kaiser are trying to do something neither school has done — win a second OIA boys soccer championship.
One of them will do it Saturday at Kapolei when they face each other in the OIA final. In the semifinals on Thursday at Kapolei, Kaiser blanked Moanalua 3-0, and Kalani edged Mililani 1-0.
The Cougars’ lone OIA championship came in 2014. The Falcons’ league crown was in 2016. Both of those teams, however, did not go on to win the state championship. Kalani (11-0-1) does have one state title (2013) to its credit. Kaiser (11-0-1) does not.
Falcons coach Mike Ching likes the fact that the OIA title game will be on natural grass. It might, he hopes, slow down what he considers a super fast Cougars team.
“They might be a different team on turf vs. grass field,” he said. “I gotta watch the film. Hopefully, it’s a benefit to us. That No. 9 (the high-scoring Makana Srivongsana) is just a speedster, and on turf, with the ball rolling, he’s just so hard to stop. Mililani had some fast guys (Thursday night). Hopefully we can play the angles better on a slower field.”
Kalani tied Kaiser by 1-1 scores twice this season, including once in the preseason at Kapolei when both teams were experimenting with lineups. In the regular season, the game was on Kaiser’s brand-new artificial turf field.
“We battled with them (the Cougars) twice and they are so good,” Ching said. “They have 10 seniors who start, and they really wanted it (in the match) at Kaiser. They probably think they should have won that game. It was pretty even. But I bet, you know, they’re going to come out even harder, which is pretty hard to to.”
Kaiser coach Layne Abalos agreed that the OIA final will be hotly contested, and mentioned that perhaps the best team in the league is not even in it.
“Mililani and Kalani are great teams, but I think Kapolei is possibly the team to beat (at states),” he said. “They are an excellent team. If we had played them (Thursday, with a handful of injured players), we would have been in trouble.”
Thanks to Moanalua’s 1-0 OIA quarterfinal win over Kapolei, the Hurricanes (9-2) are not in the OIA title picture, but they are among the six OIA teams that will advance to states. The other five are Kalani, Kaiser, Mililani (10-1-1), Pearl City (7-3-1) and Moanalua (8-3-2).
Na Menehune coach Hugo Gutierrez was impressed with his squad for knocking off Kapolei in the quarters.
“It was all heart,” he said. “Honestly, our players, they put their soul and body into the game. Unfortunately it showed and two key players got injured (while making the extra effort). They knew what was needed in that game.”
The two players Gutierrez is referring to, junior midfielder Mitchell Takara and freshman midfielder Jaden Almazan, are not out for the rest of the season. Takara is expected back for today’s third-place match against the Trojans at Pearl City, and Almazan should be ready for states, according to the coach.
Up until Thursday, Moanalua was in the chase for its first OIA championship since 1981. Na Menehune have never won a state title.
Kapolei has three league championships, including 2017, and no state titles.
At states this year, Mililani will be aiming for a seventh crown and first since 2015. The Trojans own 16 OIA titles, with the last one also coming in 2015.