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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 25, 2022, 9:34pm
Fri, Feb 25, 2022 @ Radford
ALIAMANU — Three different players scored a goal in the second half to help No. 2 Punahou to a 3-0 win over No. 3 Mililani in the semifinals of the NIU Health Urgent Care/HHSAA Division I Girls Soccer State Championships at Radford's John E. Velasco Stadium Friday night.
The Buffanblu improved to 10-1-1 and locked up a spot in Saturday's state final, where they will face top-ranked and top-seeded Kamehameha. It will be their first appearance in the title game under fifth-year coach Shelley Izuno.
"It doesn't feel good yet," Izuno said. "I'm really proud of the girls, but the state championship was the team goal from the very beginning, so I'm not celebrating yet."
Punahou last reached the state final in 2017, when it lost to Iolani. It will be seeking its 12th state championship in program history.
Izuno said that her team was able to carry some momentum over from Thursday's 3-1 quarterfinal win over Kekaulike.
"Yeah, I think actually having a tough game and them seeing that playing hard the eighty minutes resulted in a win, so I actually think that game was a great set-up for this one," said Izuno, whose team avenged a loss to Na Alii in the 2020 state quarterfinals.
Friday's game against the second-seeded Trojans — who had allowed just one goal all season — was a bit of a feeling-out process for both teams early on.
"First twenty minutes, it was interesting right, because we wanted to see how Mililani was gonna react to us and we were trying to see how we react to them, so yeah, there was definitely some feeling out, but I think within halfway through the first half we were able to really press more and the game kind of changed at that point, so from that point we just knew, you know, you feel the change, you see the change and then we just wanted more," Izuno said.
The first half went by without a score, but the Buffanblu changed that six minutes into the second. A Mililani foul gave Ellie Gusman a direct free kick from about 24 yards out, which she booted over a four-man wall, out of the reach of the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the goal.
Punahou looked to add to its lead in the 55th minute, when Nicole Beauchemin served a corner kick to the back post, where Gusman connected with a header, but it was over the goal and not on frame.
However, just five minutes later, Beauchemin put one away by herself with her direct free kick from about 40 yards out that found the back of the net, just beyond the outstretched arms of Trojans' goalkeeper Taylor VanAntwerp.
"There's some great players that can do those and I have several," Izuno said of the two goals off of direct restarts. "And there's a lot more than can do that, too."
Izuno credited both Beauchemin and Gusman for their execution on the free kicks.
"They do it all the time in practice, so it's great to see it actually happen in the game," Izuno said.
"Nicole is extremely skilled at those shots, she's done them all season … and Ellie has a great shot, she does those all the time in practice, so the fact that it happened today was actually kind of no surprise," she added.
The Trojans had a chance to get on the board in the 71st minute. A Buffanblu foul gave Kailee Wilson a free kick, but her shot missed wide right of the goal.
The game was halted for about 20 minutes when Mililani's Kiana Muratsuka was injured in the 74th minute. She was eventually taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
The injury to Muratsuka was a big damper on the Buffanblu, Izuno disclosed, which was evident by their non-celebration after the game's final whistle.
"Well, I think the players play together in club and they know the girl that got hurt and the entire team is significantly impacted by her injury, so I mean, they're really concerned about her," Izuno said.
Punahou added an insurance goal by Jordyn Eldredge Sagapolutele soon after play was restarted; it was her fifth goal of the state tournament. Eldredge Sagapolutele scored twice against Kekaulike Thursday and also had one of her team's eight goals in Monday's first-round win over Moanalua.
The Buffanblu turned in a clean sheet defensively for the sixth time this year. They held Mililani to four shots on goal, with only one coming after halftime.
Izuno praised the work of center-backs Mia Hashimoto and Dalen Lau.
"Defense has been something that we've worked to improve all season and Mia Hashimoto is a beast in the back and Dalen, both of them working together and we have a lot of players that can play multiple positions — I think half my team can play at least, two, three positions — so being able to keep fresh legs through more than half the team was beneficial," Izuno said.
Punahou recorded six shots on goal and four corner kicks. Goalkeeper Kylie Pascual registered four saves.
VanAntwerp made three saves between the posts for the Trojans in place of starter Jordyn Labajo-Cleaver, who was injured in the OIA championship game two weeks ago.
Mililani suffered its first loss and fell to 14-1; it will play No. 10 Waiakea at 3 p.m. Saturday at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex's Field No. 15 for third place.
Punahou and Kamehameha will meet at 7 p.m. at Radford and will follow the Division II state final between PAC-5 and Kauai at 5 p.m.
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