Warrior Boys Salvage 3-3 Tie Against Bears With Late Goal
By Rodney S. Yap
For the second time in three years the Kamehameha Maui boys soccer team escaped the curse of a two-goal lead against Baldwin, only this time it was the Warriors who managed the last-minute equalizer.
Warrior midfielder Paytin Ayau ran down a pass from teammate Kealaula Keli’ikoa and shot the ball past Baldwin’s freshman goal keeper Elliot Tom, who got beat inside as he tried to protect the near post.
The goal came with two minutes left in the match, preserving a 3-3 tie against Baldwin in Maui interscholastic League boys soccer action Friday before a crowd of about 1,600 at War Memorial Stadium.
More importantly, the result clinched a state tournament berth for Kamehameha, the defending MIL Division I champion. The Warriors are now atop the standings at 9-1-1 (28 points), and close the regular season on Thursday at Seabury Hall.
At 8-2-1 (25 points), Baldwin will finish its regular season by facing Lahainaluna on Wednesday (5 p.m.) at War Memorial Stadium.
“It’s always good to clinch because it’s what we work for, the opportunity to go to states, but we are not satisfied with that,” said second-year Kamehameha Maui head coach Kyle Herendeen. “We’re happy but we have a long ways to go, a lot of work to do, and these guys are up for it.”
The Warriors scored twice in the first 10 minutes on goals by Jake Mateaki and Brennan Joaquin.
“They scored two goals in a span of 10 minutes and we were shelled shocked,” said Baldwin head coach Kane Palazzotto. “But 2-0 in a soccer game is the most dangerous lead, because once you get one there’s a lot of momentum that can change and you could see it, once we got one we went to battle for two.”
Beirne Teshima cut the lead in half with a goal on a free kick in the final minute of the first half. Derek Hight tied the match at 2-2 with a header in the 65th minute, before Nahoa Foster alertly returned a rebound for the potential winning goal in the 72nd minute, 3-2.
Palazzotto said his team was able to rally and take the lead because his players were playing for each other.
“Playing team soccer, that’s what we’re about. That’s what I’m most proud of, the boys played really hard and they played team ball and backed each other up.”
In the closing stages of the match, however, the Bears were unable to keep the ball on their side of the field and “we were late on our (defensive) transition,” Palazzotto said about Ayau’s goal in the 78th minute.
“I really liked our composure. We were winning, they tied it up, we got down. Then to have the mental capacity to come back and get the tie, for us, was a big step in the points race,” coach Herendeen said.
When asked about the two-goal curse, Kamehameha Maui senior goal keeper and captain Keola Paredes said: “I’ve also heard that and you know what, I’d have to completely agree that it’s true. It’s funny, but two years ago we played Baldwin on this field and had a two goal lead and they came back and it was the same score (3-3).”
In 2014, Baldwin’s Ricky Casco scored an unassisted goal in the 79th minute for a 3-3 outcome. The Bears’ led 1-0 before Kamehameha closed out the first half with three goals in a span of three minutes. It also marked the second of three ties between the two teams that year.
“It’s always a battle against Baldwin, especially on their home field,” Herendeen said. “They had a ton to play for, they are playing for their state life right now and so are we. Going into this game it was a three-team race and any two could have gone to states. These are the games that we train for, the games that are fun, the games that we need to be able to handle the adversity.”
“It was awesome that we were able to comeback and get out with a 3-3 tie,” Paredes added. “But our expectations going into a match is to win and we’re never happy with a tie and that’s why it feels like we loss this game.”
Kamehameha Maui played a man down for the final 35 minutes after a player was ejected on a red-card infraction.
“I feel mixed emotions because if we pull it off we force a two-way playoff for the title and that would have been fun,” said Palazzotto. “But the fact of the matter is we didn’t close the show and champions close the show. I told the boys they were the champions last year and when you’re in a heavyweight fight you can’t have a tie and expect to win the belt, you gotta go knock them out. But all in all, we are in a better position than we were 80 minutes ago.”
Like Palazzotto, Herendeen was particularly pleased with his player’s team effort.
“Especially when we went down to 10 men, I liked our work rate and communication. We played the majority of the second half one man down and that really hurt us. That was a disappointing result. We have to clean that stuff up, we can’t have it, it almost costed us the game because at that point we were winning. But the other guys came in and didn’t bat an eye, they responded and we came out with a point and it was a really, really big point for us.”