Pearl City showed why it’s a nationally ranked girls soccer team Friday night.
The Chargers, who are ranked No. 45 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com., soared out of the gate for a big lead but eventually had to hang on in the late stages for a 3-2 home victory over Mililani.
The Trojans didn’t go down easy by any stretch of the imagination, pounding away for a possible tying goal that never came in a dominant stretch during the final 15 minutes.
Mililani was extremely slow to start.
“In the beginning, we weren’t ready and didn’t come in mentally focused,” Trojans defender Jodie Lillie said. “Around 25 minutes in, we started to pick up our game and ended the half strong with those two goals (to tie it 2-all). In the second half, we started slow again, but started to really pick it up and get a lot of opportunities. But we didn’t pick up the pace quick enough and ran out of time.”
In contrast, Pearl City (3-0 Oahu Interscholastic Association West) looked like a steamroller early on, getting two quick goals from sophomore Caylie Uyema, one on a a loft over charging Trojans goalkeeper Andrea Kenagy and one on an outstanding cross by freshman Kaila Takai from the deep right corner on a speeding ball that came about an inch from going out of bounds.
Uyema, a 102-pounder who teammates called “Twig” last year and who has graduated to “Sticks” this year, didn’t expect such a productive night. In the second half, she broke the 2-2 deadlock with the eventual game-winner, her third goal of the night, this time on a 35-yard boot into the top left corner that came as the result of a Mililani turnover caused by the pressure of freshman Soraya Santos.
“This is actually my first time (scoring three goals), so it’s kind of a surprise,” she said.
The Chargers were without two of their top offensive threats — seniors Sunshine Fontes, who is on a trip with a national team on the mainland, and Daelenn Tokunaga, who got a red card in the team’s last game.
“This is the kind of game you find out what the kids are made of,” Chargers coach Frank Baumholtz III said. “Early, they (his Chargers) were totally on fire. We’re missing those two players and the young ones stepped up up front. Today was Caylie’s day.”
Mililani’s Lillie thinks the Trojans had a bit of a false belief that they may have been in for an easier time since Pearl City was missing those two key players.
“Our warmup just wasn’t as it should have been,” she said. “Not that we took them for granted. We knew that certain of their players weren’t going to play and we came out a little flat.
“But everyone played well. We started working for each other toward the end. We just couldn’t finish our opportunities.”
The Trojans (3-1 OIA West) got a bit of luck on their first goal, when Chargers goalkeeper Naomi Takata mishandled a high, 35-yard direct kick off the foot of Jaylen Lum that dropped into the top left side of the goal.
Ali Fuamatu-Maafala got the equalizer before halftime on a partial breakaway that was set up on a through pass from Tehani Furuta.
“They (Pearl City) had a great start,” said Mililani assistant coach Darren Smith, who was partly in charge due to the absence of head coach Ray Akiona. “We didn’t have an answer for their midfield, so we had to change our formation. Once we did that, we were able to regain our composure. Our girls want it. They’re very hungry. It certainly was one of our biggest matches so far, so it was an eye opener. We were a little flustered early and once we scored those two goals, we were able to get our style of play back in gear.”
Akiona had some personal business to take care of and will return for the team’s next game.
Baumholtz knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get the win with Mililani buzzing in Pearl City’s end in that final stretch.
“They (the Trojans) were Energizer bunnies,” he said. “But we did a good job of staying in front of the ball and not stabbing at it. It prevented them from getting an easy shots on goal.”
There were three times the Trojans pushed the ball toward Takata, ran after it as Takata came out to get it, and collided with her heavily.
So far, Pearl City is 2-1 in three games against Mililani. Both teams won by 3-1 scores against each other in the preseason.
“I’ve already prepped the kids that we’re probably going to play them five times,” Baumholtz said.