Rylan Sakai is a little person, but he is big in the minds of his Moanalua soccer team.
Sakai stands 4 feet 4, well shorter than his teammates and opponents, yet he is right in the thick of things all the time on the soccer field.
“Rylan is the player that shows our team how you can overcome anything,” Moanalua coach Hugo Gutierrez said after Na Menehune’s 3-0 loss to Kaiser in the OIA semifinals at Kapolei High on Thursday. “He will push two times harder than anyone else. He will always say, ‘Yes coach.’ He’s the most coachable player I have. No doubt. He’ll always be there first. He’s always thinking positive. He gets bullied (in his life), but it doesn’t hurt him, or at least that’s what he shows. He knows that he’s got our back and we’ve got his back. We’re there to promote him and show that anyone is capable of playing at any level.”
Sakai is a sophomore who was brought up from the JV team late in the season.
“Yeah, I do find it difficult (sometimes),” Sakai, a midfielder said. “But I try to push myself to my highest limit. Sometimes I can play as good as (anyone). I gotta push really hard during practice and try my best. Whenever I do get playing time, I push my hardest. I’ve been playing since I was 7. I used to play flag football, but I quit because soccer became a big part of my life. I’m always going to do this (play soccer). I love soccer. I never get frustrated with soccer.”
Sakai will be trying to make his way into the starting lineup as a junior and senior. He played limited time against Kaiser.
“He’s a player that really deserves to play,” Gutierrez said. “He’s not playing just because we feel that necessity of putting him in. Everyone works for a position here and he has earned it.”
Sakai, Gutierrez and the rest of Na Menehune (8-3-2) face Mililani (10-1-1) in the OIA third-place match at Pearl City High today. After that, they will prepare for the upcoming state tournament.