The soccer season is over and another fine display of talent was there for the viewing at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium the last two weeks.
Wouldn’t you know that Punahou would earn its 20th boys title and second in a row in the 44 years of the state tournament. The Buffanblu flew under the radar, somehow, before swooping in and gobbling up the hardware. They didn’t win their league and the odds seemed to favor other teams — like second-seeded Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion ‘Iolani or Oahu Interscholastic winner and top seed Kapolei.
But … more on Punahou later.
First, here are some soccer and non-soccer observations from the Peninsula:
>> It was really cool to see Baldwin goalkeeper Jorge Perez-Martin join in on the offensive attack in the late stages of a 1-0 loss to Kaiser in the quarterfinals.
>> Chester Chee, statistician extraordinaire, and his crew were there again for the umpteenth time (or maybe more), making sure the media and the HHSAA had the relevant data. Chee’s son, Nelson Chee, is Kaiser’s new athletic director. Chester Chee has been unbelievably helpful to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser over the years, supplying results from the OIA and ILH every night.
>> Jan Allen, the officials coordinator, said she’s been playing soccer for more than 40 years … and still going strong.
>> The lanai next to the press box was almost too small to hold ‘Iolani athletic director and football coach Wendell Look and Punahou athletic director and football coach Kale Ane at the same time. About 15 rows down in the stands, Mililani football coach Rod York was watching the action. It was during ‘Iolani’s 3-0 girls semifinal win over Mililani, which preceded Punahou’s 3-0 semifinal win over Pearl City.
>> Did anyone see the OC 16 announcer get doused at the same time Punahou head coach David Trifonovitch got water dumped on him by his boys from the Gatorade jug? It’s a tough world out for media personnel on championship night.
>> What happened to the Pearl City girls soccer team? Compared to last year, when the Chargers won the Division I state championship, the squad — with many of the same girls that were on the 2016 roster — looked lackluster as the tournament wore on.
>> Baldwin’s boys showed real skill as a ball-control team. Head coach Kane Palazzotto and company had a real shot at going far, but after beating Mililani in a dramatic PK session that went to six shooters, they lost a tough one 1-0 to Kaiser in the semifinals.
>> Kapaa girls head coach Mytra McKeague (maiden name DiLeonardo) was a member of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation Warriors team that lost 2-0 to Punahou in the state final in 1998. Arlene Devitt, who went on to play at the University of Hawaii, was on that team, and Andrea Alfiler, who went on to play for Azusa Pacific and in a women’s professional league, graduated from that strong Warriors program the year before.
>> Hawaii Prep is becoming a soccer factory, with four D-II girls titles and two D-II boys crowns in a row. That amounts to a lot of trips to Oahu by Ka Makani girls coach Steve Perry, who was also here to witness the boys team’s run to the title because he is the school’s athletic director.
>> Max Sword, the public address announcer in the booth for the final night of the girls and boys tournaments, is a member of the Honolulu Police Commission. He is a former state director of the American Youth Soccer Association, and he plays a wide mix of music in between games. But, unlike a year ago, no Led Zeppelin this time.
>> Christopher Espinoza, a Punahou midfielder, had two assists in the Buffanblu’s 2-1 victory over Kaiser in the boys final. Both were on corner kicks that were finished off by Duncan McKenna and Jason Vandevender.
>> It might be a good idea to get Hawaii Prep’s Sihkea Jim on a television advertisement promoting the use of both feet in soccer to the AYSO and HYSA kids. Typically, the higher the level of play, the more players use both feet, but youngsters tend to use their natural foot. Jim, a righty, scored with a 25-yard left-footed blast to lift Ka Makani to the 2-1 overtime win over Saint Louis in the D-II final. “It’s 50-50 in soccer. It could be on the right or it could be on the left, so why not work both feet?” he said.
>> Here’s what Punahou goalkeeper Nicholas Shor, a JV call-up at midseason who filled in for starter Ian Withy-Berry in the second half of the championship game, had to say about letting in a low direct kick goal by Kaiser’s Makana Sringvonsana that somehow got past his wall of defenders: “I guess a few of the players on the wall jumped and separated a bit and it snuck under. I wasn’t expecting it and didn’t see it, so I got there late.”
And now, more on Punahou:
The road to the title is not exact, according to Trifonovitch.
“We’ve done it all ways,” he said. “We’ve won league and won the states. We’ve lost the league and won the states. And we’ve won the league and lost the states, so you never know which one works better or whether the first-game bye is good or not. That first game is always the jitters. We played terrible against Kalani (a 2-0 first-round win). Luckily we got through it.”
While being interviewed after Monday’s win, Espinoza was hugged by his brother Antonio Espinoza, a former Punahou player. It was more of a mauling, with both arms coming over Christopher’s shoulder and landing with loud thuds on his back.
“He came back from college to see me play,” Christopher said.
Sometimes defense is overlooked, but Trifonovitch was sure to point out the players in his back row.
“Kai (Terada-Herzer) is our senior leader back there,” the coach said. “He’s really aggressive and good in the air. The brains back there are from Kyle (King). He’s a junior and very analytical and smart. He keeps things in perspective and keeps guys in position. And Peyton (Sommer, a wing fullback) has been a solid starter for three years on the varsity in the same position.”
Trifonovitch laughed when asked if he wanted to upset the nice round number of 20 state championships by winning another one next year.