Unseeded ‘Iolani, Pearl City lock horns for state title

‘Iolani goalkeeper Musuai Isaia saved a shot on goal as Mililani’s Amber Tadeo-Gilbert closed in during Friday’s first D-I semifinal. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The two most recent girls soccer state champions are meeting for the 2018 koa trophy Saturday night at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.

Defending champion ‘Iolani (14-3-1) — an extremely balanced team — meets 2016 titlist Pearl City (16-1), which brings in what has been arguably the state’s most dangerous attack the last three seasons.

The Chargers have strength all over the field, too, but they usually succeed when their offense soars.

Interestingly, both teams are unseeded.

‘Iolani blanked OIA champion Mililani 1-0 in the first semifinal Friday, and then Pearl City went to penalty kicks for the second night in a row and got past Kaiser 2-1 (3-2 PKs).

One night earlier, the Chargers beat ILH champion Kamehameha 1-0 (7-6 PKs through nine shooters each) in the quarterfinals.

On Friday, Mia Watanabe came up with the winning goal for the Raiders on a pass from Sasha Asselbaye early in the second half. Watanabe’s shot went off the hands of Trojans goalkeeper Sydni Nakamura and into the goal.

“I wanted to get the shot off as soon as possible,” Watanabe said. “I saw a defender coming, but I didn’t want to touch it too far ahead. It was kind of risky but I wanted to try to catch her off guard a little bit because it was such a quick play. I was a little worried when I saw her touch it, but it was OK in the end.”

The other semifinal was more complex. Pearl City didn’t let off the gas pedal in the second half and overtime, but couldn’t get the game-winner. Kaiser, after taking a 1-0 lead on Kaile Halvorsen‘s first-half goal, had other golden chances — including a PK by Halvorsen that hit the post and would have put them up 2-0 — but faced an uphill climb after the Chargers’ Daelenn Tokunaga scored for a 1-1 tie early in the second half.

“When you’re losing 1-0, it’s the easiest coahcing job in the world,” Pearl City coach Frank Baumholtz III said. “It’s up to the kids. They just gotta go. Once they got it fixed in their mind … then we’re going and we’re going downhill. They did it and went through the OTs calm enough to put it away.”

Goalkeeper Naomi Takata came up huge for the Chargers, stopping two shots in PKs. Her save of Taylin Park‘s shot — Kaiser’s final PK shooter — wrapped up the 3-2 PK win.

“My goalie played a fantastic game once again,” Baumholtz said.

‘Iolani suffered some bumps and bruises against Mililani, but if coach Kristin Masunaga is concerned about it, she isn’t showing it.

“We’re a little banged up,” she said. “But it’s the Last game of the season. I don’t care if you can’t walk after the game. Just play 80 minutes.”

Trojans coach Ray Akiona was asked what he expected to see in the Chargers vs. Raiders final.

“They both have a real strong attacking concept with good players and lots of speed,” he said. “You will see a lot of offensive play.”

Baumholtz thinks it’s a fairly even matchup, but wonders how his girls will respond after playing the two PK matchups in a row.

“It will depend on our legs,” he said. “It took us the whole first half to get moving (Friday). The second half, was a total different change in momentum. They (the Raiders) are just as good as Kamehameha. We didn’t play them this year. At tournaments, we just missed them. If it was a totally fresh day, I’d say it’s even.”

Here’s a look at how Pearl City won 3-2 in PKs over Kaiser:

>> Kaiser’s Kayli Yoshioka shoots middle right and Naomi Takata makes a save, 0-0
>> Pearl City’s Piper Collado scores low left, 1-0
>> Kaiser’s Shaley Mercado scores low right, 1-1
>> Pearl City’s Hunter Malaki scores middle right, 2-1
>> Kaiser’s Kaile Halvorsen hits high right post, 2-1
>> Pearl City’s Daelenn Tokunaga scores center high, 3-1
>> Kaiser’s Alyssa Gabriel scores low left, 3-2
>> Pearl City’s Reyann Lee shoots low left and Madison Corso makes a save, 3-2
>> Kaiser’s Taylin Park shoots low slight left and Takata makes a save, 3-2


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