Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Trojans, Na Menehune to vie for OIA D1 crown


 



KAPOLEI — The top-seeded teams out of the Eastern and Western Divisions will face-off in the title game of the Oahu Interscholastic Association D1 girls soccer tournament Saturday night.

Thursday night's semifinals at Kapolei's Alvin Nagasako Sports Complex saw Mililani edge Aiea, 1-0, and Moanalua hold off Campbell, 2-1.

The Trojans return to the league final after a one-year absence. It will be their first time there under first-year coach Darren Smith, a former assistant under two different head coaches there.

Na Menehune, under the direction of longtime coach Nikki Dela Pena, exorcised some demons with their victory. They had lost in the semifinal round in each of the past three seasons.

The teams met in the preseason, with Mililani coming away with a one-goal win, although Smith couldn't recall the exact final score.

"It was a good look. They're a quality team, definitely a quality team, they're very composed," Smith said of Moanalua. "I can't recall exactly when we faced them, but I know it was a tough one for us."

Dela Pena's memory of that game is also foggy at best.

"I don't remember either, but you know, preseason is when everybody lets everybody else play, you're trying to figure stuff out," she said. "I'm sure it was the same for them as well as us, I don't think it was their truest matchup that we're going to see Saturday and I don't think it was our truest, but, I mean, Mililani is always going to be a powerhouse no matter what year or season you play them, so we just look forward to a great game (Saturday)."

All four semifinalists had already clinched a spot in next month's state tournament.

Saturday's title game will be played at Kapolei and is slated to kickoff at about 7 p.m. and will follow the D2 final between Kalaheo and Nanakuli at 5 p.m.


MILILANI 1, AIEA 0
Cece Jenkins scored on a 30-yard direct free kick minutes before halftime and goalkeeper Sydni Nakamura registered four saves to help the fourth-ranked Trojans (11-1) secure their spot in Saturday's league final with a 1-0 win over sixth-ranked Na Alii (10-2-1) in Thursday's early semifinal.

Mililani, the West top seed, recorded their 10th shut out of the season and extended their win streak to five games. It had a first-round bye Monday and was coming off of a 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Waipahu Tuesday.

West No. 3 seed Aiea saw its seven-game win streak snapped. It was coming off a 2-0 win over Kailua in Tuesday's quarters and a 3-0 blanking of Kahuku Monday.

Both of Na Alii's loses have come against the Trojans, who handed them a 6-0 thumping to open the season on Dec. 6.

The game was a rematch of an OIA semifinal last year, which Aiea won by a score of 1-0 en route to hoisting its first league championship in 14 years.

Jenkins came off the bench Thursday to net the game-winner. The senior midfielder said she missed practice Wednesday due to illness.

"I felt much better today, but still not a 100 percent," Jenkins said.

Mililani was awarded the free kick after a Na Alii foul on Nicole Ando.

Jenkins booted a right-footed laser beam from the left side of the field that was just beyond the outstretched arms of Aiea goalkeeper Shayla Sugai and just under the crossbar and into the back of the net.

"It was a fantastic look and Cece had a leg," Smith said. "I think she had a similar kick against Aiea our (second) game of the year — it was a similar position — so it was good that she took the opportunity."

Jenkins recalled that goal against Na Alii that Smith referenced as she lined up the shot Thursday.

"So I scored like the same goal during (regular) season against Aiea and I know that the keeper likes to stand off her line a little bit, so I just did the same thing," said Jenkins, whose goal came in the 37th minute. "I just did the same thing. I just hit it over her head, aiming for the top crossbar."

Aiea turned up the pressure in the final 15 minutes. It had a golden scoring opportunity in the 65th minute, when a Mililani defender misplayed a ball and Brynn Shimabukuro gained possession of it for Na Alii. She fired a shot from distance that went off of Nakamura's hands and off the crossbar. The rebound came off to Alyna Slayter, who put another shot on goal, but Nakamura again came up with the save.

"Sydni is definitely our super hero back there. She holds it down, she talks to our back line, organizes them and that save that she had really saved our butts. She just helps the team a lot," Jenkins said.

Smith, a former standout goalkeeper for the Mililani boys soccer team in his own day, praised Nakamura, a three-year starter, for her steady play all season.

"She's been fantastic this entire year. Composure, leading out of the back, that's kind of in her wheel house of who she is as a player and we definitely look to her in those moments," Smith said.

Mililani has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 63 to 2. It has not allowed a goal since a 1-0 loss to Campbell on Jan. 3.

The Trojans will try for their league-record 18th championship Saturday. They won three straight OIA D1 titles from 2016 to 2018.


MOANALUA 2, CAMPBELL 1
Taylor Hayes scored a goal and drew a foul that set-up Tichalynn Baroga's game-winning penalty kick to lift fifth-ranked Na Menehune (9-0-2) to a 2-1 win over the third-ranked Sabers (9-1-2) in the late semifinal Thursday night.

Moanalua, the top seed out of the East, had a first-round bye Monday before escaping with a 2-1 win over Pearl City in Tuesday's quarterfinal round.

West No. 2 seed Campbell also had a bye Monday and was coming off of a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Kaiser.

Hayes, a junior midfielder/forward, put her team ahead just 15 minutes in. Her right-footed shot from about 25 yards out was solidly struck and found the top left corner of the goal.

"We actually had Kara (Kanetake), one of our outside-mids, slide her a ball, she turned on a defender and had a great shot hooked up in that upper left," Dela Pena said of Hayes's team-leading 11th goal of the year.

Campbell netted the equalizer in the 24th minute, however. Junior midfielder Jourdyn Curran netted a one-timer from about 15 yards out to beat goalie Alexis Davis and even the score at 1-all.

"After Taylor Hayes scored that goal and then I got scored on, that was like the turning point, I think," Davis said.

Na Menehune used the intermission to regroup and refocus.

"At halftime we just told them that — actually from the beginning of the game — we told them that this was actually the more important game. This was going to get us through because this (semifinal round) has always been the hump for our seasons in the past, so we made it a common goal to make sure that this was the big game we needed to get through," Dela Pena said.

Hayes, a senior and third-year varsity player, urged her teammates to finish the final 40 minutes strong.

"Our momentum came down during that half, but halftime came and I told my girls that ‘we can't just break down, we're this close and we need to break that streak, you know?' We've had numerous opportunities to make it to the finals and we always fell short, but I felt in my heart that this team put in the hard work and had the heart to finish strong and finish out this game and come out with that win," Davis said.

The Sabers applied heavy pressure on Davis and the Moanalua defense after the break. In the 53rd minute, Dove Tupper sent a corner kick to the near post, where Athena Edwards redirected a shot on goal that hit the left post, but did not cross the end line.

About 10 minutes after Campbell's near-goal, Hayes drew a foul in the 18-yard box to give Barroga an attempt at a penalty kick, which she put past the keeper for the go-ahead score. It was her third goal of the season.

With about seven minutes and some change left, a stoppage in play for injury sent Campbell to their sideline. However, Moanalua opted to stay on the pitch, instead huddling around Davis.

"Lexi is most effective when she's talking; these girls really respond to her. When there was an injury time, I know she brought the girls over and these girls really respect her and look up to her and they really do respond to her leadership, so when she pulled them off to the side, I knew she had something for them," Dela Pena said.

Davis said she urged her teammates to not let up in the final stretch.

"There was maybe like eight, seven minutes left, it was just very crucial time because you never know what can happen in seven or eight minutes, so I brought my girls together, they were kind of just laughing, whatever, but I was like, ‘hey, this is not over, we can't just drop our guard and think that we won this. We don't stop until the clock stops, or the final whistle is blown,' so I told my girls that we need to just keep working hard and don't do anything reckless like cause fouls and we did have some of those towards the end, but we were able to just clean it up," said Davis, a senior captain.

Davis was certainly put to the test by the Sabers in the final two minutes. She denied a shot on goal by Cheyenne Mattos that was deflected out of bounds for a Campbell corner kick. The Sabers got the ball in the box and had a header attempt that was headed toward the goal, but Davis made her second save in a span of about 30 seconds. She had five saves in all Thursday.

"She's peaking right now. She's had a great regular season, but through the playoffs she's had some great games and she's really kept us in these close games and definitely well deserving of a senior captain for us," Dela Pena said of her goalie.

"I had those past experiences in these kind of game-changing situations and with those shots coming in, it was inevitable, it was bound to happen to have those two shots come on me, but especially because Campbell's hard work ethic — props to them, they were trying to just get it in, get it in — and I knew that they needed it, but I feel like I was able to just calm myself down and I didn't want to let my team down especially, we've made it so far," Davis said.

Moanalua has not won an OIA title since 2012. It will try for its fourth league crown when it faces Mililani Saturday.

"It's crazy that we — I still really can't believe it, I'm honestly, honestly really speechless — it's been three years that I've been on this varsity team, since my freshman year and every single year we've always made it to the semifinals and always fell short, so it's like a dream right now," Davis said. "It doesn't really feel like we're going to finals right now, but I'm so blessed with this group of girls. We have such young talent that came up, they put in the work, they showed that they deserve to be here. I think our whole team proved that they deserve to be in the finals on Saturday."



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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