It’s obvious that the two best teams made it to the girls Division I state tournament final tonight. No flukes getting there.
Both ‘Iolani and Punahou scored dominant wins on Friday in the semifinals. The Raiders stopped OIA champion and top-seeded Mililani 3-0, and the second-seeded Buffanblu won by the same score over defending D-I state champion Pearl City.
Now the rivals go head-to-head for the third time this season. They tied 1-all and ‘Iolani squeezed out a 2-1 win. Expect more of the same close-to-the-vest play tonight at 7 p.m. at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
“It’s the last game,” Punahou head coach Starr Johnson said after Friday’s win over the Chargers. “It’s the big game and it’s against our rival. There’s going to be a lot of energy, a lot of heart, a lot of emotion, so we’ve talked about kind of managing those things to pull it together. We have a special senior class and we have a special team that cares very deeply for each other. They truly love each other and play for each other and love to celebrate with each other and everybody’s successes. So, it’s a special day that we have coming.”
Despite losing to ‘Iolani (12-0-3) in the regular season, Punahou (12-1-1) won the ILH title. You get three points for a win and one for a tie, so the Buffanblu’s 10-1-1 league record turned out to be better than ‘Iolani’s 9-0-3.
“They’re a great team,” said Raiders forward Mia Watanabe, who scored all three goals Friday. “Our matches against them were really close. They are good all around, their center, their defense and their offense is strong, so we have to play like we played today (in the win over Mililani) and keep finding each other and play for each other because that is our key to success.”
Watanabe’s description of Punahou could easily fit as a description of her Raiders.
The Buffanblu’s True Dydasco, who is headed to play for Oregon next season along with Campbell midfielder Chardonnay Curran, wants redemption for that loss earlier in the season.
“Tomorrow is our chance to come back harder and finish what we started,” she said. “We haven’t won against ‘Iolani since my indermediate year. I think we’re on our peak right now, we just have to play with heart. Everyone knows it’s our time to shine. We all want it. We just have to go out and get it.”
Dydasco, a midfielder and defender, has been a team leader throughout her Punahou career.
A major X factor for ‘Iolani is senior Kylee Kim-Bustillos, a midfielder and forward who will play for Sacramento State next season.
“Kylee, she just really wants to win and will do whatever it takes,” ‘Iolani head coach Kristin Masunaga said. “We’re up for the challenge.”