The second straight state Division II championship-match victory was sort of a formality for Brandon Ho.
Asking his girlfriend to the prom was only a little riskier for the Mid-Pacific defender. It wasn’t like she was going to say no, but, hey, you never know, maybe she wouldn’t like the idea of him making a spectacle of it.
No worries in the long run, however. Ho and Tiana Young-Mauchly, who have been dating for about 10 months, will be going to the senior prom. She was smiling and happy — and surprised — while holding flowers from him while Ho and his teammates celebrated a 7-1 bashing of Kamehameha-Hawaii in the state D-II final Saturday night at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
A few minutes after the final whistle, Ho and his teammates held up signs toward the stands, with the prom question for Young-Mauchly — who plays for the MPI girls team — written in big letters.
“I had been thinking about doing it (the asking) this way for about two weeks,” Ho said. “It was perfect timing, after winning the championship.”
Said coach Jayson Abe with a big smile, “I had no idea he was going to do that.”
It may have been a Division II victory, but it was a Division I prom invitation.
Coincidentally, Abe let it out Saturday night that his Owls will be competing in Division I at the ILH and state levels next season.
“It’s a process,” he said. “And we didn’t want to rush the process. The players have known since the beginning of the season that we would be moving up next year. We wanted them to taste a little more success before doing it.”
During the ILH regular season, the Owls proved they belong in D-I, finishing 8-2-2 and right in the thick of things with powerhouses ‘Iolani (10-1-1), Punahou (8-2-2) and Kamehameha (6-4-2).
Ho, a senior, talked about the wealth of talent returning to keep the program moving upward next season. He was thrilled that the freshmen not part of last season’s team got to experience a state title, and overjoyed that his friend, senior Christian Vasconcellos, also got to be a part of it all.
“He hadn’t played soccer before,” Ho said. “He was a football player, but he worked the hardest and he improved a lot. He got a lot better than we thought he would.”
Abe said he was fortunate to have the most cohesive team he’s ever coached, and anyone who watched MPI selflessly play team soccer in the state final knows he isn’t just making it up.
“There’s a lot of talented players on this team,” he said. “But I can’t emphasize how great the team aspect was enough. This was a great, great team win and we were so cohesive all season.”
This is the Owls’ fourth D-II state crown, all under Abe; they also won it in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
The coach made sure to point out the struggles some of this year’s seniors went through as freshmen and sophomores.
“They (Ho, Kai Umeda, Stirling Aponte, Daniel Yamashita) all started their first two years,” Abe said. “It wasn’t always pretty. They took their share of lumps.”