HHSAA Girls Soccer
Top-ranked Warriors, second-ranked Buffanblu to clash for D1 state soccer crown


Fri, Feb 3, 2023 @ Pearl City

Final 1st 2nd OT 2OT PK Tot
Kamehameha-Maui (10-2-3) 0 0 - - - 0
Kamehameha (10-1-2) 0 2 - - - 2
M. Espiau (70’)   I. Vee (44’)

PEARL CITY — The final game of the girls soccer season will be an all-private school affair. 

No. 1 Kamehameha and No. 2 Punahou will meet for the fourth this time season Saturday night when they clash in the title game of the Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I Girls State Soccer Championships at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex. 

The Warriors, who defeated the Buffanblu for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu crown nine days prior, secured their spot in the tournament final with a 2-0 win over No. 4 Kamehameha-Maui, the fourth seed and Maui Interscholastic League champion. It was the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Pearl City's Edwin "Bino" Neves Stadium Friday night.  

After a scoreless first half, freshman Ionare Vee put Kamehameha ahead with her goal in the 44th minute. Following a bit of a scramble in the box, the ball found the feet of Vee, who put it away from point blank. 

"That's just her pure grit, her pure determination to just hunt down the ball and just do whatever she can to put it in the back of the net, that's her," Moore said. 

Kamehameha added an insurance goal in the 70th minute, when Marley Espiau headed a corner kick from Nikki Mau past KS-Maui goalkeeper La Hikina Artates. It was Espiau's fifth goal of the season — all of which have come on headers — and her second in as many days. She also scored on a header against Campbell Thursday.

Kamehameha's Nikki Mau delivers a corner kick in the second half that leads to a goal for the Warriors. Michael Lasquero | SL    Purchase image

"Again, another well-played ball into the box and great determination by Marley to find the ball in the air and finish it," Moore described. 

Moore spoke highly of the Maui Warriors, who kept pressure on the Kapalama defense and goalkeeper Marley Roe throughout the contest. 

"They're excellent. They had a lot of pace, they're very organized, disciplined, their midfield is fantastic, absolutely fantastic," she stated. 

Unlike in the 1-0 overtime win over Campbell, Friday's semifinal match played out much more similarly to the track-meet type of game that Kamehameha has played during the ILH season. 

"The style of play that we've seen all season, definitely conducive to that," Moore said. "(KS-Maui was) definitely similar to Punahou's style of play, to be honest with you, so things we needed to adjust a little bit sooner, we finally did and that was the difference."

KS-Maui (10-2-3) was seeking its first appearance in a state championship match. 

Kamehameha (10-0-2) will try for its fourth straight title and 12th overall. 

Punahou's Dalen Lau attempts a penalty kick against Mililani in the second half. She also had a penalty kick attempt in the first half that provided the Buffanblu's only score. Michael Lasquero | SL    Purchase image

Punahou (10-1-2) punched its ticket to Saturday's title game by handing Mililani (13-1-1) its first loss of the season, 1-0, in the early semifinal.

The difference was Dalen Lau's penalty kick in the 20th minute. The play began with defensive pressure up top from forward Ellie Gusman, who stole possession of the ball from a Mililani midfielder. Gusman then connected a pass to teammate Emily Daehler, who was taken down from behind in the 18-yard box by a Trojan defender. 

"I just saw a slide tackle to stop the play," Buffanblu coach Shelley Izuno said. "It is what it was."

Trojans coach Darren Smith did not feel the play warranted a foul. 

"It was a tough one. It was definitely a tough one, it depends on his perspective," he said. "From our perspective it looked like she won the ball, but I guess from his, I guess from the back it looked like she may have took out the player, so we're gonna have to go back and look at that one, for sure."

The foul in the box resulted in Punahou being awarded a penalty kick, but Lau admitted that she was a bit surprised when her name was called to step up to the spot. 

"I was a bit stepped back because I thought Ellie was gonna be the one to take it, just cause she's our leader and she's a good leader, but when she called my name and then Carly Cormack called my name too, I was ready," Lau said. 

Lau reflected upon the fact that the the Buffanblu failed to convert on four penalty kicks in the state title game last year, a 1-0 loss to Kamehameha in a PK shootout. 

"Honestly, I didn't know I was gonna be up to take the kick, but I was ready and I wanted to take it because we practice so much during practice on our PKs, especially because of last year so I think I was ready when the time came," said Lau, a senior center-back. 

It was Lau's third goal of the season and second of the state tournament; She also had a goal in Monday's 2-1 first-round win over Pearl City.

Izuno was all smiles in her recollection of the lead-up to Lau's PK. 

"It was nice to see her step up and want to take it and you know, especially after last year, having lost the finals in PKs, to have kids that are raising their hands to do that, it's like, ‘alright, well, go ahead,' you know, and yeah, heck of a game," said Izuno, who praised the play of Lau, along with fellow fullbacks Mia Hashimoto, Jordyn Eldredge Sagapolutele and Candace Ching. 

"They were fantastic. Just tremendous," Izuno said. 

Smith tipped his cap to the Buffanblu and their ability to transition quickly from attacking to defending. 

"They compact very well and they fall back with everybody on their team, so it's extremely hard to get past them," he said. 

Punahou had five shots on goal and got six saves from goalkeeper Xeyana Salanoa. 

Mililani managed six shots on goal — all of them after halftime — but most were from distance. It was largely unable to connect passes in the attacking third, where standout junior striker Iai Maafala has proven to be a problem for opposing defenses. 

The Buffanblu, however, was able to mitigate the Trojans' prolific trio of forwards in Maafala, Tavena Oliveira and Jaeda Edayan, who have combined to scored 42 goals on the year. 

"I think just mark up, cover for each other was big," said Lau, who is signed to play collegiately at Sacramento State. "They were playing long ball, so when the ball's in the air first and then we can figure it out and mark up after."

Punahou had a chance to add to its lead in the 68th minute, but Lau missed a penalty kick wide right of the goal. 

Mililani manufactured a couple of final scoring chances in the closing minutes, including a shot on goal from distance by Mari Ige with just seconds remaining, but Salanoa came up with the save to preserve the shutout for the Buffanblu. 

"I expected a really tough game and that's exactly what happened," Izuno said. "I was hoping that we'd find the net at least one more time, but Mililani is tough all over the field."

It was the second straight year that the teams faced off in the semifinal round of the state tournament. Punahou came away with a 3-0 win a year ago.

The Buffanblu are seeking their 12th state championship and first since 2011. 

"I think it's just redemption time for us and we're just gonna come out strong and wanting to win really bad," Lau said. 

Kamehameha and Punahou played to a 1-1 tie on Jan. 11 at Alexander Field and another 1-1 tie on Jan. 21 at Kunuiakea Stadium before the Warriors broke through against the Buffanblu with a two-nil victory in the ILH title game on Jan. 25 at Waipio. 

"Hopefully it's another good match," Moore said. "I'm hoping it's gonna be one. You know, we're just gonna go at it and play as hard as we can."

Kickoff between Punahou and Kamehameha is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Waipahu High School's Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex and will follow the Division II state final between Kapaa (10-1-2) and PAC-5 (6-4-1) at 5 p.m. 

Note: Inclement weather Saturday morning forced the title games to be moved from the Waipio main stadium. Also, the HHSAA announced that all scheduled consolation games for Saturday have been canceled. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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