Soccer Saga, Episode 3: Trojans find a way

The Trojans celebrate a goal in a win over Punahou. Darryl Oumi / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The Trojans celebrate a goal in a win over Punahou. Darryl Oumi / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Between first-round matches at Kamehameha’s Kunuiakea Stadium on Friday, the rain started to fall for the first time that day.

It was time for an interview with one of the key components in Mililani’s attack — Tia Furuta.

The Trojans had just beaten Kamehameha-Maui 7-1 in the first round of the girls soccer state tournament and were preparing for a major conflict against ILH champion Punahou on Saturday.

Furuta, the OIA’s leading scorer, scored twice against the Warriors.

She was asked about the challenge ahead, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to switch to the recent past, when the Trojans fell victim in overtime to Campbell in the OIA title game.

“We were downing after that game,” she said. “

Downing, a verb, meaning — she went on to explain — bummed out, or some such other thing with a negative connotation.

Furuta and her teammates must have been downing again after falling behind 2-0 to Punahou in the first half on Saturday.

How could the Trojans possibly come back from that? They didn’t win the OIA title. Did they think they could penetrate the ILH champion’s defense now? What kind of reserve power had they stored up for something like this hole?

No matter what, it was going to be difficult, if not barely possible.

Furuta attempted to start the ball rolling by scoring an apparent goal late in the first half, but the referees ruled it “no goal” because of an obstruction with Punahou goalkeeper Noe Kong-Johnson.

Then, Furuta got a bit lucky early in the second half, taking a cross in front of the net from Jayna Morikawa, but not getting a solid attempt off. The Buffanblu’s Kailey Totherow, running hard inside the box to defend, accidentally knocked it in her own goal.

A little later, Morikawa hustled to head in Malia Napoleon’s direct kick a split second ahead of Kong-Johnson for a 2-2 tie before Furuta booted home the eventual game-winner in the 76th minute after a one-touch cross from Morikawa.

To set up the winning attack, Mikiala Ramos-Kamaka won a 50-50 ball along the left sideline. She passed it to center midfielder Kayla Braunthal, who in turn, sent a pass into the right corner to Morikawa.

And when it finally got to her, Furuta, the fantastic finisher, somehow dribbled around a defender and put it into the low corner for the victory, something that looked improbable about 40 minutes earlier.

Braunthal said Punahou’s own goal (credited to Furuta) gave her team the “boost” it needed.

Trojans coach Ray Akiona said it showed his girls that it was possible to score against the top-seeded team and that it showed them the way.

After the own goal, Akiona, who spoke with the referees at length at halftime about the disallowed goal, held his thumb up and asked the sideline official, “Does this one count?”

The official nodded in the affirmative.

“That goal gave us a lift like you would never believe,” Akiona said.

And it did. The Trojans went on the rampage and peppered the Buffanblu for most of the rest of the way.

After falling behind 3-2, Punahou made some late attacks that were defended by Napoleon, Kasey Isobe and goalkeeper Andrea Kenagy.

Kenagy, who allowed the two first-half goals on long direct kicks that she got a piece of, was calm in the final minutes. Twice, relatively safe Punahou chip shots came in to her, and instead of just grabbing the ball, she settled it down and waited for the Buffanblu attackers to run in with pressure before picking it up and booting it away.

The road is not complete yet for the Trojans, who face Konawaena on Friday in the semifinals at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium. A win there would push them into the Saturday final against either ‘Iolani or Campbell.

Mililani has two state titles to its credit (1994 and 2002) and was runner-up five times. In addition, they have 14 OIA titles.

“I don’t have words to really explain it,” Braunthal said about the comeback. “We wanted it SO bad. We did not want to give up.”


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