MAKIKI — It took awhile for Kaiser to find its footing, but it rallied to beat Roosevelt, 3-1, Saturday at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
The Cougars (6-2-1 or 19 championship points) are assured of at least the fourth seed in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East for the OIA Division I tournament. The Rough Riders (5-4 or 15 points) have clinched the fifth seed.
After a scoreless first half pretty much dominated by Kaiser, it was the Rough Riders that ignited a scoring spree by both teams in 13-minute span.
On a breakaway, Summerly Smith scored from about 10 yards from the left side, sending her kick by a diving keeper Mana Torres at the 55th minute.
But that lead was short lived. A minute later, Taylin Park sent a free kick from 20 yards above the outstretched arms of goalie Mika Maetani and just below the cross bar to tie the game at 1.
Eight minutes later, Kaiser's next goal also was initiated from a free kick near the middle of the field. The ball ended up in the goal area, where a Kaiser player's kick was deflected toward Alyssa Gabriel, who made her chip shot from about three yards out to put Kaiser ahead, 2-1.
Four minutes later, the Cougars sealed the game on Shayley Mercado's four-yarder from the right side to increase their lead to 3-1.
"We just wanted to come back and wanted to win so we had to put everything we had in it," Gabriel said.
The closest Roosevelt got to scoring again came at the 73-minute mark when Torres made a diving stop of Taylor Caporous' shot from 10 yards.
The Cougars peppered the Riders' goal in the first half, but Maetani made four saves. Other shots were wide of the goal. One of the reasons for Kaiser's slow offensive start are injuries to forwards Tommi Hintnaus (ankle), the reigning OIA East Player of the Year, and Kailie Halvorson (knee). Neither played.
"Our chemistry is not good right now because our two strikers are out," Kaiser coach Adolph Samuels said. "Today, we had to play more defense because we didn't have that offensive punch that we needed."
If anything, playing without Hintnaus and Halvorson gave other opportunities to solidify the Cougars' depth for the playoffs.
"We have the players to come through to help us," Gabriel said.
Another reason for Kaiser's slow start was adjusting to the fast FieldTurf. Kaiser's stadium is being renovated so the Cougars have been practicing at an under-sized field at neighboring school.
"We're struggling at practice, but we have to take care of business Pearl City didn't have a field last year, so no excuses."
But the Cougars' defense did the job by hardly allowing the Rough Riders to get off any clean shots. Samuels credited fullbacks Miya Nishibun and Shaye Weaver for restoring order.
"Those two girls in the middle really take care of business in the back," Samuels said. "My keeper (Torres), she's a short, little girl, an overachiever. She works so hard. Never played keeper before….She saved us a lot of times this year."
The Rough Riders also had their share of injuries and illnesses that did not make them a hundred percent, but their effort did shut down the Cougars for one half.
"We had a lot of players injured," Roosevelt coach Shaina Caproroz said.
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