The leading goal scorer in the OIA this season might not be a name you’re quite familiar with.
But you’ll definitely want to be.
Kaiser senior Kaile Halvorsen has had a knee injury take away portions of her sophomore season at Punahou and her junior year with the Cougars.
She hasn’t competed in the state tournament since she was a freshman and has never appeared on the Star-Advertiser All-State first team.
That might shock you when you see her play for the first time. If she doesn’t score a goal in the first minute of the game — like she did in a 4-3 win over Kapolei in the first round of the OIA playoffs on Monday — she’ll almost surely have one by halftime.
Halvorsen finished with 24 goals in nine games in the regular season and led the Cougars to an 8-2 record. She had at least three goals in half of those games and added three more in the win over the Hurricanes to keep her season alive. Her goal in the sixth minute of the quarterfinals against Aiea was the only one to find the back of the net in a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, clinching Kaiser’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2015.
Her talent is undeniable. Her individual ability puts her at the level of any other player in the state. But for her, she’s just glad to finally get to showcase her talents for everyone else to see.
“Finally. For once in my life (I’m healthy),” Halvorsen said. “This year I kind of just wanted to end my last year with a bang, leave it all out, show people what I can actually do.”
A rising star on the club scene, Halvorsen was the only freshman named a first-team ILH all star in 2015 for the Buffanblu. But in the summer before her sophomore season, she tore the MCL in her right knee at a club tournament in California.
At that point, she was already piling up the scholarship offers — she ended up close to 45 total according to her dad, Kit — and basically had her pick of schools on the West Coast.
A month after the injury, Kaile hobbled her way through a recruiting trip with her father to a bunch of different schools. Southern California, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, San Diego State were all part of the trip, but it was one school that immediately tugged at her heart the moment she arrived on campus.
“Once I got to Santa Clara, it just clicked. I was like, ‘wow,’ this school is amazing,” Halvorsen said. “Something about Santa Clara just fit for me. They were supposed to only give me an hour tour, but they extended it and went off and showed this and that and they were just so nice and welcoming.”
The Broncos are a successful women’s soccer program with a national championship in 2001 and 10 West Coast Conference titles with 27 NCAA tournament appearances. They have advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons.
Santa Clara has an impressive list of soccer alumnae including former U.S. National Team member Brandi Chastain and more recently, Julie Ertz (Johnston), who was named the 2017 U.S. Soccer female player of the year last month.
One of the best parts of Halvorsen’s visit that locked her in was seeing where the soccer team plays on campus.
“They don’t have a football team anymore, so their main headline sport is women’s soccer,” Halvorsen said. “The old football stadium is actually the soccer stadium and so it’s a stadium. The grass is perfect. It’s so nice — beautiful.”
The Broncos honored her commitment despite her knee injury, which kept her from playing significant minutes for the Buffanblu until midway through the season.
With a college scholarship in hand, Halvorsen, who grew up in Hawaii Kai, transferred to Kaiser for her junior year, but again injured her knee, suffering a sprain in practice that limited her to six games in which she scored nine times.
Kaiser’s season ended in the first round of the playoffs in a 2-1 loss to Kapolei, making Monday’s win in an elimination game that much sweeter.
The Cougars play unbeaten Moanalua tonight in the second semifinal game at Kapolei at 7 p.m.
Na Menehune beat the Cougars 3-1 on Dec. 20.
“This year I definitely came in thinking we could have a chance (in the OIA playoffs) because last year, the class of 2017 was really strong and the seniors this year came in really motivated to do it,” Halvorsen said. “I thought we should have beaten Moanalua and Castle the first time but I definitely think (tonight) it’s going down.”