Mililani had a beautiful possession game in Friday night’s 3-2 victory over Waiakea.
Now, the trick is, can they play the same kind of game tonight against Punahou in the Division I final of The Queen’s Medical Center/HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships at Waipio Peninsula Soccer?
Trojans center midfielder Liam McGehee, who scored two of his team’s goals against the Warriors, is not sure.
“Now matter how it is, we’re going to have to find a way,” he said.
A few defensive lapses led to two Waiakea goals and the third-seeded BIIF champions almost came back against the Trojans after trailing 3-0.
“We started off on a strong foot and all the way through — the team’s attacking, our defense, our goalie (Nicholas Gaston), we were solid,” McGehee said. “We made things easy at times and we also made it hard at times, but overall we played as a team and that’s all you can ask for.”
If it was as simple as asking, the Trojans (13-2-1) would be asking the soccer Gods for a win against the Buffanblu tonight. The Central Oahu boys have already taken down two seeds (including a 1-0 win over second-seeded Kapolei on Thursday) and now they’re taking aim at the top-seeded team.
But that is no simple thing. The Buffanblu (10-1-1) are the ILH champions who have won three of the last four D-I state championships and 21 overall in the 46 previous editions of the tournament.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” McGehee said. “We’re going to prep mentally and prep physically for it. It’s going to be physical, but we’re all excited for it. … I believe in our team.”
Coach Steve McGehee, Liam’s father, knows it might not be easy to play the possession game against Punahou.
“We’re built as a team that moves the ball around,” the coach said. “If they move fast (for instance, faster than Waiakea), that means they’ll have gaps somewhere, so we have to find it and that’s kind of what we’re going to be doing.”
According to coach McGehee, the defensive miscues that happened against the Warriors are “correctable.”
“We know who we are and what we are,” he added. “I was happy to see the boys are happy with the win, and I see that they’re not happy with the way the game played out. That means they take pride in what they do. That’s something you can’t instill in kids. They either have it or they don’t.”
McGehee was breathing slightly easier after Friday’s win, ready to watch Punahou take on Kalani in the late semifinal.
“I can breathe for 80 minutes,” he said at the time, knowing his mind afterward would be focused on game-planning for the winner. “We punched our ticket and get to sit back to watch the fireworks.”
Punahou prevails to make another D-I final
The Buffanblu were in a 1-all tie deep into the second half of the second semifinal against Kalani before Jacob Moore scored a goal for a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute. It was far from over. Kalani attacked relentlessly in the final five minutes and got robbed when Cade Matsumoto jumped to knock away a header by Jenson Fuse that would have tied it in the 79th minute.
“It’s very sad,” Fuse said. “I had a chance and couldn’t finish it. We worked for this and we couldn’t finish it.”
Said Matsumoto about the save: “It was a beautiful set piece and a perfect header. That was my time. We’ve been training that since the first day of practice. We were down to 10 men. It showed our character and the spirit we have. I can’t thank the boys enough. When that PK went in, I kind of dropped, but my teammates lifted me up. In soccer you play for more than just yourselves. You play for each other and everyone around you.”
Matsumoto added, “Mililani is a great team and they’re at their peak right now and we have to show up.”
Buffanblu coach David Trifonovitch is wary of Mililani and speedy threats such as Jvon Cunningham.
“He can cut and slice and do what he has to do to get through, so we gotta keep an eye on him,” Trifonovitch said. “Mililani is well coached. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pack it in to try to thwart our offense.”
Trifonovitch would welcome a possession and control battle.
“It could come down to how both teams connect (on their passes),” he said. “If they can do it and we can do it, it should produce a pretty nice game.”
|1||Feb. 10||Hilo vs. Kaiser||Kais, 2-0||Hilo Bayfront|
|2||Feb. 10||Pearl City vs. Kalani||Kaln, 6-1||Kalani|
|3||Feb. 10||KS-Maui vs. Mililani||Mil, 2-0||KS-Maui|
|4||Feb. 10||'Iolani vs. Kalaheo||Kalh, 1-0 (4-3 PKs)||'Iolani|
|5||Feb. 13||(4) King Kekaulike vs. Kalani||Kaln, 4-0||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|6||Feb. 13||(3) Waiakea vs. Kalaheo||Waik, 2-1 (OT)||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|7||Feb. 13||(2) Kapolei vs. Mililani||Mil, 1-0||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|8||Feb. 13||(1) Punahou vs. Kaiser||Pun, 4-1||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|9*||Feb. 14||Kaiser vs. King Kekaulike||Kais, 4-3||Waipio|
|10*||Feb. 14||Kapolei vs. Kalaheo||Kapo, 3-0||Waipio|
|11||Feb. 14||Mililani vs. Waiakea||Mil, 3-2||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|12||Feb. 14||Punahou vs. Kalani||Pun, 2-1||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|13*||Feb. 15||Kaiser vs. Kapolei||Kais, 2-0||Waipio|
|14*||Feb. 15||Kalani vs. Waiakea||Waik, 5-4||Waipio|
|15||Feb. 15||Mililani vs. Punahou||Pun, 3-2||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|* — consolation|
|1||Feb. 13||(1) Kapaa vs. Makua Lani||Kapa, 3-1||Waipio|
|2||Feb. 13||(4) Aiea vs. Seabury Hall||SH, 5-1||Waipio|
|3||Feb. 13||(2) Hawaii Prep vs. Waipahu||HPA, 4-0||Waipio|
|4||Feb. 13||(3) Pac-Five vs. KS-Hawaii||KSH, 1-0||Waipio|
|5*||Feb. 14||Makua Lanai vs. Aiea||ML, 5-2||Waipio|
|6*||Feb. 14||Waipahu vs. Pac-Five||P5, 3-1||Waipio|
|7||Feb. 14||Hawaii Prep vs. KS-Hawaii||HPA, 1-0||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|8||Feb. 14||Kapaa vs. Seabury Hall||Kapa, 3-0||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|9*||Feb. 15||Makua Lani vs. Pac-Five||Tie, 0-0||Waipio|
|10*||Feb. 15||Seabury Hall vs. KS-Hawaii||KSH, 4-0||Waipio|
|11||Feb. 15||Kapaa vs. Hawaii Prep||HPA, 2-0||Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium|
|* — consolation|