Kekaulike Boys Stay Unbeaten With Win Over Bears
By Rodney S. Yap
The build is two games from completion, but the part King Kekaulike High School added Friday night has the boys soccer team at the doorstep of its second Maui Interscholastic League championship in three years.
Na Alii preserved the league’s only unbeaten record by nailing downtown rival Baldwin 1-0 before more than 900 spectators at the Upcountry school’s stadium. The win improved Kekaulike’s record to 9-0-3, worth 30 points in the Division I standings, five points ahead of Kamehameha Maui at 8-2-1 and six better than the defending MIL champion Bears, now 8-3-0.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and that Baldwin was going to come out hard,” said King Kekaulike’s fourth-year head coach Ryan Arakawa. “We prepared the boys all week long and they came out and ready to play.”
Sophomore midfielder Micah Tateishi scored his team-high 10th goal in the 35th minute of the match when he alertly putback a ball that Baldwin thought was whistled dead by the referee a split-second before Tateishi’s shot found the back of the net.
“I just saw the ball get knocked in front of the goal and one of our players headed the ball back in and the play got stopped a little bit by the goalie and Micah was right there to put it back in.”
When asked if he heard a inadvertent whistle, Arakawa said: “I didn’t hear anything.”
With their backs against the wall, Bears’ head coach Kane Palazzotto recited a familiar message to his players at halftime.
“I told them that we’ve been in this situation before and that we are going to battle back. I thought we dominated the second half, we just didn’t put the ball home. We had plenty of opportunities to score. We had a PK (penalty kick) we should have buried.”
The questionable circumstances surrounding the game’s only goal added to Palazzotto’s frustration.
“It’s hard to lose to a rival and with what was at stake,” the coach added. “I honestly feel that in both games (against Kekaulike) we had a bad call go against us, but that’s the way the ball bounces. . . . The ball has been bouncing their way all season, so they deserve it. They deserve the championship and congratulations goes to them.”
The final pieces to King Kekaulike’s 14-game project will potentially come on Tuesday at Seabury Hall and on Jan. 31 at Maui High School for the season finale.
“My message to the players afterwards was to stay humble,” said Arakawa, who played on school’s first MIL championship team in 2000 that went 12-0. “We still have two more games, nothing is set in stone yet. We still have to do our job in the last two games in order to go to states. Our philosophy the whole season has been, ‘take one game at a time’ and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Highlighting King Kekaulike’s remarkable run this season is the fact that on Senior Night only two players were honored. Three sophomores are among the team’s leading scorers in Tateishi, Jake Jacobs (8 goals) and Lionel Mills (4 goals). Junior goalkeeper Cameron Baker has more than 40 saves this season, including the six he manufactured against Baldwin.
“Cameron has stepped up big time this year,” said Arakawa. “He comes out on game day and he’s ready to play and he gives it his all every single game.”
Baker would be the first to tell you the play of his teammates contributed to his third shutout of the season. Baldwin stretched Kekaulike’s defense to its limit late in the match behind the midfield play of Nick Lawrence and Kyson Kaiama. Na Alii countered with solid defense from juniors Alek Frederickson, Kolomona Solomon and Reece Ibara. Mills and Micah McDonald also cleared balls threatening to tie the match and at one point, one defender nearly scored an own goal, if not for the head’s-up play of Baker.
Baldwin’s best shot to even the match at 1-1 actually came five minutes into the second half when a hand ball in the box set up a penalty-kick opportunity of Lawrence. But the junior had too much mustard on his shot, which sailed over the crossbar.
“I was thinking of going middle,” said Lawrence, one of the team’s captains. “But I lifted up my back and my leg must of lifted in the air.”
“I thought we played well,” Palazzotto said. “It was a pretty even first half. I think we had six shots to their three. Honestly, the goal was not a goal. He blew his whistle before the ball went in the goal . . . and everybody stopped.
“What the ref said is the ball came off the goal post and bounced to the guy that scored the goal. But that’s not what happened. The guy that shot the ball next, our keeper made the save and the next guy put the ball home. And when our keeper made the save he blew the whistle already. So the play is dead, my guys are stopping and their guy touched the ball home.”
Baldwin will have to win out and hope for some help in the next two weeks. The Bears next game is at Lahainaluna on Tuesday.
In girls MIL soccer:
BALDWIN 4, KING KEKAULIKE 4
Na Alii jumped out to a 3-1 lead at halftime and built a 4-1 advantage before the Bears rallied for three goals midway through the second half.
King Kekaulike’s Emmely Felipe opened the scoring with goals in the eighth and 14th minutes, before Kayela Santiago made it 3-0 in the 32nd minute.
Baldwin trimmed the lead to 3-1 on a goal by Sarah Nomura, but Kisa Giebink’s 30-yard rocket on a free kick in the 57th minute made it 4-1. The Bears went to work with Christine Kenagy scoring in the 59th minute, followed by a goal from Tara Tesoro in the 64th off an Amber Kozaki corner kick. Emilie Tarin eventually tied the score on a free kick in the 72nd from midfield.