A rout is rare in the Punahou vs. ‘Iolani boys soccer rivalry, but that’s what happened Tuesday at the Buffanbu’s rainy field.
Punahou (9-1-2) rolled to a 4-1 victory to capture its second straight ILH Division I championship and third in four years.
The Buffanblu are hoping this success translates to the upcoming D-I state tournament. They’re gearing for a fight, especially since last year’s exit was an early one. At the end in 2018, two Neighbor Island teams — Baldwin and Hawaii Prep — squared off for the title and ended up being named co-champions due to lightning in the area with the score knotted 0-0 in overtime.
“The Neighbor Islands were awesome last year and they deserved everything they got,” Punahou coach David Trifonovith said after Tuesday’s win. “I was disappointed wtih the Oahu schools last year. We did not play good soccer in the ILH or the OIA. During (the consolation games), we were all scolding each other for our bad showing.”
Trifonovitch is expecting some fireworks this year, no matter what teams make it far.
“This year, it’s stepped up,” he said. “Kapolei’s got an excellent team. Mililani is very good. Kalani is very good. It’s up for grabs. I don’t think there’s going to be any front-runner out there. I haven’t seen King Kekaulike from Maui this year, but we played them in the third-place game last year and they were good. If they leaprfrog Baldwin and get into that (seeded) spot, they’re going to be formidable, too. And HPA is HPA. They’ve lost to Hilo and went to OT against Waiakea. Due to that difficulty, they might come in with more hunger.”
Trifonovitch was quick to point out that Tuesday’s match was not a typical Punahou vs. ‘Iolani showdown and not just because of the three-goal margin.
“It was rainy and slippery and not the kind of game in which there is more composure and passing,” he said.
Said ‘Iolani defender Lincoln Oishi: “We didn’t play our game, really. The conditions didn’t help, but that’s no excuse.”
Despite the loss, Oishi thinks the Raiders still have what it takes to get things done in the near future.
“I think we’re a team that can win states,” he said. “We’ve worked hard for it all season. We definitely can do it as long as we all come out and play our game, prepare well and even have a little luck on our side.”
Added ‘Iolani coach Chris Lee: “We’ve done a lot of good things to get to this point. We just have to remember what got us here and what’s going to get us to keep moving forward. Nobody is undefeated and there are a lot of teams out there that can win. Hopefully, we’re one of those that are there in the final.”
‘Iolani (10-2-1) was trying for its first ILH title since 2017. The Raiders will be going for a 10th D-I state title.
The Buffanblu, who won their sixth league championship since 2008 on Tuesday, are aiming at a 21st state title. They were eliminated by Baldwin 3-1 in last year’s semifinals.
“I think we’re on the way up,” said Punahou midfielder Max Moonier, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday. “I think we’ve been improving every game. This was a good game for us. I think we’re just gonna keep on that trajectory and keep getting better.”
Punahou is 2-0-1 against ‘Iolani this season, having beaten the Raiders 1-0 in the teams’ first matchup and then scoring twice in the last 10 minutes for a 2-all tie in the second meeting.
Trifonovitch wanted to avoid what happened in that tie.
“They dominated that game for 60 minutes,” he said. “They outhustled us, out-everythinged us.”
This time, he said it was all about succeeding in beating the Raiders to the ball.
“Yes, we wanted to settle down and be composed and pass,” Trifonovitch said. “But even more important than that was getting to the ball first or at least being there with them on the ball. This time, we didn’t let them get to every single ball in the midfield.”