Aiea ran an almost unthinkable gauntlet to hoist the OIA girls soccer championship trophy.
Na Alii (12-2) finished their run to the title Saturday night with a 1-0 upset of Pearl City at Kaiser Stadium. It was the fourth straight win in the tournament for Aiea, which had dispatched Kahuku and Kaiser before going into the semifinals Thursday as a decided underdog against 17-time league champion Mililani and coming away with a 1-0 win.
Team defense got it done that victory over the Trojans and the same formula worked against the Chargers (10-2-1), who were denied in their bid at a ninth OIA crown.
“We always created a little wall, always shifted toward the ball,” Aiea coach Benji Villaflor said about his team’s defensive effort. “It takes skill to penetrate that, or the other option is to have good flighted balls. We also used the terrain to help us. The field is slanted, so every through ball on this end (where Na Alii defended in the first half) just goes out of bounds. We had the wind after that. At that point, it was get the job done, get the ‘W’ and get the title.”
Defensively, Aiea’s Phoenix Miranda steadied the ship, with help from sister Savannah Miranda, who played up front against Mililani.
“Savannah can play forward, midfield or defender for us and she came up big,” Villaflor said. “We moved her back because of an injury to Brianna Yamada. We hate to lose a player like her and we hope it’s nothing serious.”
Na Alii’s Nicole Olanda was the hero once again, scoring the lone goal like she did against Mililani. On Saturday, she scored in the first half after taking a through ball from Sydney Boyd and gunning a 25-yard left-footed shot into the top left corner.
“It’s a big win,” Olanda said. “Since 2005, we haven’t won (OIAs). I was 5 then. Moving on, we have great momentum. It’s a team game and we all want the same goal and we can achieve it if we believe it.”
It was Aiea’s third league crown to go along with the banners it won in 1999 and 2005.
Villaflor said his worry moving on to states is trying to keep the momentum going after the major high of the championship.
“We can’t be sleeping rolling into states,” he said. “We gotta find a way to re-motivate them.”
Pearl City will be trying to do something it did in 2016 — win a state title after not taking the league crown. The Chargers have won five state championships previously.
“I’m good with my kids,” said Chargers coach Frank Baumholtz III, whose team’s offense was limited without U.S. U-17 national team player Sunshine Fontes (knee injury in 2-1 semifinal win over Moanalua). “I love them all. They’re super hard workers. We kept pressing and pressing and could’t make the connection. They were panicking a little bit.”
Added Pearl City striker Soraya Santos: “We played hard and gave it our all. The season’s not over. I think we have a chance of getting far in states.”