HHSAA Girls Soccer
Iolani edges Pearl City to retain state title


  



Sat, Feb 10, 2018 @ Waipio


Final 1st 2nd OT 2OT PK Tot
Iolani (14-3-1) 1 0 - - - 1
Pearl City (15-2-0) 0 0 - - - 0
M. Watanabe, IOL (40')

WAIPAHU — For the second year in a row, Iolani no ka oi.

Mia Watanabe scored just before halftime and Iolani turned in a clean sheet to successfully defend The Queen's Medical Center/HHSAA Division I Girls Soccer State Championship with a 1-0 win over Pearl City before a crowd of 1,724 fans at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium Saturday night.

The Raiders, runners-up of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and ranked fourth in the Hawaiian Electric/ScoringLive Power Rankings, improved to 14-3-1 with their fifth consecutive win and fourth tournament victory in a span of five days. It is the sixth state crown in school history.

The third-ranked Chargers, who finished third in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, saw their four-match win streak snapped and end the season with a record of 15-2.

With just three seniors on its roster — none of them in the starting lineup Saturday — it was somewhat of an unexpected championship for Iolani.

"I think initially when we came back, we thought we had a pretty good chance at the beginning of the season, and then we had a preseason tournament, where we didn't do as well as we hoped, we lost three games in the ILH and at one point, we were wondering if we were even going to make it to the state tournament," Raiders coach Kristin Masunaga said.

The season got off to a dubious start for the Raiders. Within their first four games, they had a scoreless tie against Punahou and a 1-0 loss to Kamehameha.

"It was a long process, I can say that, and we really had to persist this year and work hard day in and day out and we knew that it would come from all of us — it would have to be a team effort — and as long as we worked hard as a whole, we could pull it off. I'm really grateful that I had this opportunity to play here tonight," said Watanabe, one of eight sophomore starters.

Iolani won a string of seven straight games in the middle of the season, but dropped back-to-back games to the Warriors and Buffanblu in a period of six days late last month.

"We needed those losses, so we worked harder and came together. I think we peaked at the right time," Masunaga said.

After scoring just four goals during the ILH season, Watanabe put away four goals in three days in the state tournament.

"We just told her, you know, ‘Go out there and play like how we know you can play,' and she stepped up," Masunaga said.

Watanabe's goal in the 40th minute — just seconds before the intermission — was all the offense Iolani needed Saturday.

Sophomore forward Sasha Asselbaye pressured a loose ball deep in Pearl City territory that brought goalkeeper Naomi Takata out of the box and left the goal open. The ball ricocheted out to Watanabe, who fired a right-footed blast from the top right corner of the 18-yard box into the left side of the goal.

"Before the end of the half, we knew that we wanted to get one because it completely changes the game and I just saw Sasha — I owed it to her; she works really hard to get the ball — I just saw the keeper out and I made sure to get a hit on it as soon as possible," said Watanabe, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Masunaga credited Watanabe for being in the right place at the right time.

"Sasha pressured and then the keeper couldn't handle it — I don't know if she fell or what — Mia had the perfect angle and hit it on frame," Masunaga said.

Watanabe said it was imperative that the Raiders remain focused throughout the tournament, which nearly came to an end Tuesday afternoon. They barely snuck by OIA fourth-place finisher Moanalua in a first-round elimination game — only after 11 rounds of penalty kicks — to reach Thursday's quarterfinals.

"We knew no matter what we'd have to come out as hard as we can every single game. We knew we had to put it all on the line every single minute in order to get to this title," Watanabe said.

Meanwhile, the Raiders' defense was superb against the Chargers' prolific offense and their standout forward, Daelenn Tokunaga. The two-time All-Hawaii first teamer scored 20 goals on the year, but was largely held in check Saturday.

"They are amazing," Watanabe said of her defense. "I am so grateful. We are so lucky to have an awesome defense out here and I owe it to them. No goals got scored on us the last three of four games, so they're awesome."

Masunaga praised the steady play of outside backs Taylor Venenciano and Taylor Arakaki, along with center-backs Kelsey Wong and Shylah Soon.

"I think that's the strength of our team, is our four backs," Masunaga said. "They're pretty much our returning back line from last year minus Shylah — Shylah was on the team and had some experience as a holding mid — but they just work really well together. That's where our leadership is: (Taylor Venenciano) is a captain, Kelsey Wong is a captain and Taylor (Arakaki) is a captain."

Pearl City coach Frank Baumholtz III said the Raiders' quality of depth posed a problem.

"They're the Energizer Bunnies. Everybody they put in is an all-star," Baumholtz said. "I'm so proud of our kids for beating Kamehameha (in the quarterfinals Thursday) and we only lost this one 1-0, I mean, that's really an accomplishment, so they have nothing to hold their heads down about. This was a tough game; one bobble and that was it."

The Chargers were also playing their third game in as many days. Despite going to penalty kicks the past two nights, Baumholtz said fatigue was not a factor Saturday.

"No, I don't think so. We were ready to play. We played hard, we had opportunities, we had a couple shots that were close, (but we) didn't put it in the net. That's part of what goes on," Baumholtz said.

Musuai Isaia made six saves in goal for Iolani, while Takata — who turned in back-to-back incredible performances in Thursday's win over top-seeded Kamehameha and Friday's semifinal win over Kaiser — registered seven saves.

Pearl City was seeking its sixth state title and first since 2016. It was without First Team All-Hawaii utility player Sunshine Fontes, who is competing with the U-17 Women's National Team in Argentina.

It was the first meeting between the teams since the Chargers beat the Raiders, 1-0, in the state semifinals back on Feb. 19, 2016.

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The Queen's Medical Center/HHSAA Girls Soccer State Championships Division I All-Tournament Team
as selected by the media and HHSAA

Daelenn Tokunaga, Pearl City
Bree Fuller, Pearl City
Hunter Malaki, Pearl City
Megumi Takushi, Pearl City
Kelsey Takahashi, Iolani
Sierra Wheeler, Iolani
Taylor Arakaki, Iolani
Kaile Halvorsen, Kaiser
Jodi Lillie, Mililani
D'awncey Jones-Black, Kamehameha
Naomi Takata (GK), Pearl City

Most Outstanding Player: Mia Watanabe, Iolani



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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