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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 5, 2023, 12:00am
Sat, Feb 4, 2023 @ Waipahu
WAIPAHU — Buff nation, rejoice.
Three different players scored a goal to propel No. 2 Punahou to a 3-0 win over No. 1 Kamehameha in the title game of the Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I Girls Soccer State Championships Saturday night.
A crowd of more than 2,000 spectators at Waipahu's Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex saw the Buffanblu (11-1-2) breakthrough against the three-time defending champion Warriors (10-1-2) for the first time in four tries this season.
The teams played to ties in both regular-season meetings and Kamehameha posted a 2-0 win over Punahou in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu final 10 days prior to their final showdown.
"We always talk about being positive and there's always a silver lining in something," Buffanblu sixth-year coach Shelley Izuno said. "You can take something positive out of every situation, even heartbreak and this is what it was, and they were like, ‘OK, our goal to get the ILH title, you know, we missed that one, but OK now, let's go get this one.' "
Izuno's squad did just that and the payoff is Punahou's first state championship in a dozen years. It is the 12th title in program history.
"Finally," Izuno said.
The last time the Buffanblu hoisted the big trophy was in 2011, when it completed a run of three straight state crowns. They have certainly come close in the years since, including runner-up finishes in 2013, 2017 and most recently, a heartbreaking loss to Kamehameha in penalty kicks a year ago.
"Of course, it's the buildup to this: losing, of course, tough matches against them every time, losing a state final in PKs — the last way you want to lose — and then the tie, the tie, the loss, was all ammo just building, social media, all that stuff, it just played out to this," Izuno expressed.
The memories of four missed penalty kicks — including one in the final minutes of regulation — in last year's championship game were still fresh on the mind for the Puns, which made Saturday's triumph that much sweeter.
"Last year was kind of a rough time for us because we honestly thought we had it in our bag with that last PK before the regular time had run out and knowing what we could have had last year kind of put that fire under our butt this year and knowing that, we had that mentality this whole season to come back and dominate and we did just that tonight," said forward Xevani Salanoa, one of eight seniors for the Buffanblu.
After a frantically-paced opening 20 minutes of play, Salanoa broke the seal with her goal in the 26th minute. On the play, Salanoa raced down a ball played ahead of her from a teammate, but not before she got tripped up a bit while splitting a pair of defenders. Salanoa was able to regain her footing, took a touch and fired a shot from 25 yards off her right foot that glazed the bottom half of the crossbar and into the goal.
"I actually had to check to the ball, but the defender was on my back at the same time so I knew that I had to beat her to the ball but in that sense she actually kind of clipped me on my side, but I still had to get back on my feet so I knew that I had to keep going," Salanoa said. "I kept running forward and kept my body up and I just took that last touch and ripped that shot."
It was Salanoa's sixth goal of the season and third of the state tournament; She scored two goals in the first half of Thursday's quarterfinal win over Waiakea.
Kamehameha looked to equalize just before the end of the first half. Nikki Mau raced down the right sideline on a counterattack and fired a shot on goal from distance, but it was saved by goalkeeper Xeyana Salanoa.
The score was one-nil at halftime and held until about midway through the second half, when Punahou opened the flood gates with nearly back-to-back goals from Carly Ann Cormack and Gusman only a minute apart.
Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I Girls State Soccer All-Tournament TeamAs selected by the media and HHSAA
Isabella Ayau, KS-MauiSaraya Burghardt, KS-KapalamaCarly Ann Cormack, PunahouMarley Espiau, KS-KapalamaEllie Gusman, PunahouMia Hashimoto, PunahouJael Kapua‘ala, KS-MauiI‘ai Maafala, MililaniXevani Salanoa, PunahouKailee Wilson, Mililani Xeyana Salanoa, Punahou (GK)
Most Outstanding Player: Dalen Lau, Punahou
Cormack received a ball from Gusman then used her speed to outrun a pair of Warriors and get near the end line before she cut a left-footed shot from a tough angle past goalkeeper Marley Roe and into the right side of the goal.
"I saw Carly making a run in, so I passed it to her and she took her touch right past the defender and it was a little bit wide and I was knew that Carly always hits that shot and she hit it and it was just awesome," Gusman described.
It was Cormack's team-leading eighth goal and second this week; She put one away against Pearl City in Monday's 2-1 win in the play-in round.
Just moments after Cormack doubled up the Buffanblu lead, Gusman gathered a loose ball that was crossed in from Xehlia Salanoa on the left flank and blasted a right-footed shot with plenty of pace past Roe and into the back of the net.
"(Xehlia Salanoa) did an awesome job driving down the line and getting a cross off and the ball popped right to me and I kind of didn't know what to do because I didn't know if I was alone or if there was a defender on me, but someone just said, ‘Just shoot it,' so I just took a hit at it and it went in," Gusman said.
Kamehameha coach Missy Moore could only tip her cap to Punahou.
"Great finishing," Moore said.
The Buffanblu were shut out for the only time this season by the Warriors in the ILH final. Saturday night they turned the tables and held Kamehameha without a goal for the first time all year.
"Honestly, every loss against Kamehameha just fuels our fire. Everything, every tough game fuels our fire against them," Izuno said.
Izuno and her players certainly kept that internal fire lit all season.
"Given the game last year — we were so close last year — and a bunch of our team was returning and we knew how much we wanted to win last year and how much it sucked losing, so we just came out this year with a lot of fire and once (Xevani Salanoa) scored that first goal, it was kind of surreal and once we got the second and third, we were like, ‘this game could be ours,' and then we just had to make sure to keep pushing until the end and when that final buzzer went off it was amazing," said Gusman, who is signed with South Dakota State University.
Punahou'a trio of goals were its only shots on goal for the match. Kamehameha, conversely, registered eight shots on goal, including five in the first half. Ultimately, Xeyana Salanoa saved every shot on goal by the Warriors.
"That's the way the ball bounces sometimes in soccer. You can be playing a very good game and if you don't finish your opportunities and the other team does, that's soccer, you know what I mean? You could be having a really good game and they get off a good shot and yeah," Moore said.
Kamehameha was seeking to finish off a four-peat for its group of nine seniors. It has won 11 state championships in program history; five them have come under Moore since 2012.
"Winning the last three and then being here again for the fourth time in a row, that is not easy to do and so I gotta give the hands off to these girls, I mean, they just keep coming in year after year, fighting year after year and to be here in the final, it really meant a lot and just showed where our program is," Moore said, "You know, they're just gonna keep fighting every year; expect us to fight."
The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium, but was moved to Waipahu due to inclement weather Saturday morning. Consequently, all of the consolation games in both the Division I and II tournaments were canceled.
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