Punahou’s Taylor Matsubara is soaring after waiting for more than 2 years

Punahou senior Taylor Matsubara missed her sophomore and junior seasons due to multiple knee surgeries after playing on the Buffanblu varsity as a freshman. Photo by Nick Abramo/Star-Advertiser.

Taylor Matsubara suffered an ACL injury right after her freshman season with the Punahou varsity girls soccer team.

That injury led to serious complications that required multiple surgeries on her knee and took her out of the lineup for her sophomore and junior seasons.

But the defender is back in action as a senior and loving it. She made a fine defensive play to stop a late Aiea chance on Monday in a 1-0 victory in the opening round in Division I of the Queen’s Medical Center/HHSAA Girls Soccer State Championships.

“I just started playing again four months ago,” Matsubara said after Monday’s game. “It was right before the school season. I had played maybe three club games before tryouts. It was quite a journey.”

Constant setbacks and rehab was not what Matsubara had in mind when she decided to play high school soccer.

“After the first surgery, while trying to make it back, there was a re-tear and so I had another surgery. After that, I got infected with staph and they had to do two flushouts (surgeries). At that point, I stayed out for a year to make sure I was free from any illness. After that, it tore again (requiring another ACL surgery).

“I’m very lucky to have the support of all of my family, friends and teammates. They have really made me stay committed and they kept me in the right head space in order for me to be where I am today.”

Punahou defender Taylor Matsubara, right, collided with Aiea forward Sheyliene Patolo during the first half of a first-round game in the HHSAA state tournament. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

According to Punahou coach Shelley Izuno, Matsubara was more than a trooper going through all of that suffering.

“I got to know Taylor as her coach in her intermediate, eighth-grade year,” Izuno said. “She had amazing tenacity and an amazing attitude. While she was going through those multiple surgeries, I would say, ‘Hey Tay, just hang in there, stay positive. You’re going to come back.’ She was like, ‘Yup, yup. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good.’ At times, it was like she was way stronger than the adults. It takes so much to go through surgeries. She knew she wanted to play her senior year. It was a long two years for her, but there’s no place she wanted to be more than on this team playing in her senior year. It’s inspiring.”

Matsubara and the ILH runner-up Buffanblu (8-0-3) play Thursday in the state quarterfinals against MIL champion and third-seeded King Kekaulike (9-0-1) at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.

Matsubara’s parents are thrilled to watch their daughter back in action.

“We had no idea if Taylor would ever be able to run again, let alone try to play soccer competitively ever again,” her father, Wyeth Matsubara, said. “So, it has been a very gratifying experience for us to be able to observe her perseverance, resilience and never get down or give up attitude — especially for a teenager — and watch her journey to get back on the field wearing her Punahou uniform and competing and having fun.”

HHSAA D-I Tournament

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 3KS-Maui vs. CampbellKSM, 1-0KS-Maui
2Feb. 3Moanalua vs. KailuaMoan, 1-0Moanalua
3Feb. 3Hilo vs. Pearl CityPC, 3-1Hilo Bayfront
4Feb. 3Punahou vs. AieaPun, 1-0Punahou
5Feb. 6(4) Konawaena vs. MoanaluaKona, 1-0Waipio
6Feb. 6(3) King Kekaulike vs. PunahouKK, 1-0Waipio
7Feb. 6(2) Mililani vs. Pearl CityPC, 2-1Waipio
8Feb. 6(1) Kamehameha vs. KS-MauiKSK, 1-0Waipio
9*Feb. 7Moanalua vs. KS-MauiKSM, 3-0Waipio
10*Feb. 7Punahou vs. MililaniMil, 1-0 (PKs)Waipio
11Feb. 7Konawaena vs. KamehamehaKSK, 3-0Waipio
12Feb. 7King Kekaulike vs. Pearl CityKK, 2-0Waipio
13*Feb. 8KS-Maui vs. MililaniMil, 2-1Waipio
14*Feb. 8Konawaena vs. Pearl CityTie, 2-2Waipio
15Feb. 8Kamehameha vs. King KekaulikeKSK, 1-0Waipio
* — consolation


  1. ILoveHawaii February 4, 2020 11:24 am

    What a great story of resiliency and courage.

  2. A. Irizarry February 4, 2020 1:11 pm

    A correction is needed for Punahou coaches name. It should be Shelley Izuno, not Kelley.

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