Mililani’s defense helped the Trojans earn a shot at retaining the OIA Division I girls soccer title for a third straight year.
Kaile Halvorsen, one of Oahu’s most dynamic scorers, helped power Kaiser into its first league championship game since 2014.
The results of Thursday’s semifinal round create an intriguing matchup for the title on Saturday at Kapolei.
Mililani has yet to give up a goal in three playoff matches this week and shut out previously unbeaten Pearl City in a 1-0 overtime win. Sophomore Callie Mullen scored the golden goal in the 87th minute off a corner kick from Meagan Tamashiro, sending the Trojans to a third straight final and 25th in the tournament’s 37-year history.
The Trojans allowed four goals in 10 regular-season matches, three in a loss to Pearl City on Dec. 15. They blanked Kahuku and Castle to open the OIA playoffs then became the first team to keep Pearl City scoreless this season.
“I have to give credit to all the people on the defensive side,” Mililani coach Ray Akiona said. “The fact that they were able to hold and control the attack of Pearl City, I haven’t seen many teams be able to do that this year.”
Kaiser last appeared in the OIA final in 2014 when the Cougars loss to Pearl City and will attempt to win its first league championship since Carl Izumi led the program to its lone title in 1997.
First-year coach Noelani Bio took over a team that placed fourth in the OIA East last season and lost in the first round of the OIA playoffs. The Cougars, the East’s third seed this season, survived a 4-3 duel with Kapolei on Monday, edged Aiea 1-0 on Tuesday and kept the run going with a 4-1 win over East top-seed Moanalua in Thursday’s second semifinal.
“I think it’s been a long time coming for these girls and for the program itself,” said Bio, a Baldwin graduate. “I didn’t expect it coming in as a first-year coach, but you really have to give it up to those girls because they’re playing their hearts out.”
Halvorsen scored four goals in Kaiser’s first two playoff matches and opened the scoring less than 15 minutes into the semifinal. With a defender between her and the goal, Halvorsen worked to her right, fired a shot across her body and into the net.
Halvorsen threatened again less than 10 minutes later, this time dropping a pass to Shaley Mercado, who finished for the first of her two goals in the match. Halvorsen had another rocket from a sharp angle hit the post in the second half and Mercado and Maya Mau extended the Kaiser lead.
“Once she gets the ball there’s no telling what she’s going to do with it. She’s so dynamic,” Bio said. “She can either dish it out or take the shot. You never know what you’re going to get with her. She’s a true competitor.”
The Trojans and Cougars will have a day to rest and prepare before their meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Kapolei.
Pearl City and Moanalua will have to bounce back right away for the third-place match at 7 p.m. Friday at Waipahu. That match will be preceded by the fifth-place match between Waipahu at Aiea at 5:30.
In the ILH, Punahou pushed ‘Iolani to the brink of elimination with a 2-0 win over the defending state champion Raiders in the semifinals of the league tournament on Thursday.
Punahou meets Kamehameha, which won the ILH’s first round to clinch a state tournament berth, for the tournament title. A Buffanblu win over the Warriors, who beat Mid-Pacific 3-0 on Thursday, would force a rematch for the league’s overall title and its seeded berth in the state-tournament bracket.
‘Iolani will be pulling for a Kamehameha win, which would give the Raiders — the first-round runner up — another shot at Punahou for the ILH’s second berth.