KS-Maui Girls Clinch MIL Soccer Title With 1-0 Win
By Rodney S. Yap
The battle for the Maui interscholastic League title may be over, but the war facing the Kamehameha Maui girls’ soccer team starts next week.
“It’s all in the fight,” said Warriors’ head coach Steven Mau, following his team’s 1-0 victory over Maui High Tuesday night. “We’re good and we’re gaining momentum. We have to stick together and stay focused.”
Sophomore forward Moana Astronomo scored the lone goal in the 35th minute. Astronomo took a pass in the middle of the field and dribbled past the Sabers’ defense to setup a clean shot with her right foot into the net. The goal was her fifth in the last two games and was the only blemish by Sabers’ junior goalkeeper Katherine Allen, who kept the visiting team in the game with six saves in each half.
With the win, Kamehameha Maui earned its third girls MIL Division I soccer championship in five years, and avenged one of only two regular-season losses against 12 wins, including its seventh straight.
The league title means the Warriors will represent the MIL as one of four seeded champions at the Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Girls Soccer Championships at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park on Oahu, Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.
The Warriors’ credit, the school has managed to qualify for the Div. I state tournament four times in the last five years with a rookie head coach at the helm. KS-Maui went 0-2 as champions in 2008, 1-1-1 as champs in 2009, 2-1 as the MIL runner-up in 2011, and 1-2 as the MIL runner-up last year.
King Kekaulike is the MIL’s second representative this year in the 12-team state Division I tournament. Na Alii capped their season with a 4-0 triumph over Seabury on Monday to close with a 10-2-2 record.
“State is a big thing. For us, its about the whole package, not just the MIL,” remarked Mau. “I’m not surprised we won, because we prepared to win.
“We’re getting there. We have some work to do, because states is going to be tough. We got what it takes . . . I’m going to play the best 11 on the field at all times.”
There was no champion celebration on the Warriors’ sidelines after the match, just the customary hug and high five. Mau wants to see this year’s team win a quarterfinal match and advance to the semifinals, a feat that would be a first for the Pukalani-based school.
Kamehameha Maui celebrated Senior Night, recognizing its seven 12th-graders at halftime and then again after the match before a crowd of about 300 at Kanaiaupuni Stadium. Friends and family members decorated the home bleachers with posters and purple-painted signs.
From top to bottom, Kamehameha Maui’s 26-player roster is loaded with talent and experience as many of the girls have been playing since the age of 5. Without a junior varsity program, however, an added premium is put on playing time during the varsity season and Mau said he tries his best to get as many players in the game, without jeopardizing a potential victory.
Maui High was seeking its first MIL crown since 1996. The loss dropped the Sabers to 9-2-2, with one game remaining.
“They played their hearts out, we wanted to win so we would get a chance to get to state, but now that’s not going to happen,” said Maui High head coach Tony Medeiros. “We’re disappointed, the seniors gave an outstanding effort and our goalie “Keola” Allen did a great job.”
The Sabers play their final match on Thursday, a make-up contest against Lahainaluna. A win against the Lunas would leave the Sabers tied with King Kekaulike in points (32), but the Upcountry school earns the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win and a tie against Maui High.
“They have worked hard all season and I have enjoyed what they have done.I feel like they have come a long way. That was our first loss other than our first game of the season. We’ve given up four goals, that was just the fifth goal we’ve given up all season and we scored 32 goals. We had a lot of shutouts along the way and actually won eight or nine games during one stretch. I think we did a great job for our program and the girls stepped up and the seniors worked hard.”
Maui High’s best opportunity to tie the match came in the last minute of the first half when junior midfielder Mary-Lynn Johannes ripped a shot just inches above the crossbar from about 8-yards out.
Medeiros said Johannes, “gave a speech to the girls at halftime.”
“The message was about digging deep and working hard. She was teary-eyed about it. She asked them, ‘don’t you want to win.’ I really respect her for doing that.”
The Sabers played with plenty of passion in the second half, putting the Warriors’ defense on their heels in the second half. Mau countered by realigned to a 4-4-2 scheme.
“We’re thinking too much at times. We have to get to where all balls are intentionally passed, all balls are intentionally settled. The connection is there, the offensive shape is intact at all times, and I shouldn’t have to be yelling, ‘get back on defense,’ that’s AYSO.”
“We’re going back to the drawing board,” Mau added. “The pressure is off of them, now we have different pressure to worry about. But we have to learn how to play under pressure because there will be plenty of pressure at state, when you are playing against a team that has the same goal as you, they want that championship trophy, too.
“We are going to have to play physical, that’s what I’m asking of them. We have to be physical. We have to be the one’s initiating the contact and setting the tone so our opponents respect us.”