PUKALANI — As the Kamehameha Schools Maui girls soccer team left the Kanaiaupuni Stadium turf Tuesday, junior Sienna Kamalani remarked how her team’s group dynamic out on the playing field was the best it’s been all season.
No better timing for the Warriors.
Under cloudless and sunny Upcountry skies, the Warriors defeated Pearl City 2-1 in a Division I first-round match of the Niu Health Urgent Care State Championships.
“It was definitely a lot better than all of our other games combined,” said Kamalani, who scored the Warriors’ opening goal. “This past week, we were trying really hard to focus on our play and our team bonding and I think when we’re able to do that, we’re able to play our soccer and we’re continuing to grow on the field.”
Kamehameha Maui (9-2-0) tallied 14 shot attempts and two shots on goal against the Chargers, who finished their season at 10-4-1.
“We just kept pushing,” Warriors head coach Jim Kaeo said. “Once they get that first goal, the girls get a little more confident. … We’re just trying to get that first goal in so that we could just settle down and play.”
That first goal didn’t come until 29 minutes into the game after a scramble in the goalie box, where Warriors striker Kamalani chipped the ball into the goal off an assist by Kirra Spalding.
Setting the tone with that first score was “so exciting,” Kamalani said.
“I didn’t even know what happened to be honest,” she said with a laugh. “I just followed the ball and it just so happened that I scored.”
The Chargers responded just four minutes later as freshman Julia Oka tied it up with a close-range shot down the center of the box assisted by senior midfielder Alyssa Bautista.
With 6 minutes left before halftime, Kamehameha Maui sophomore Jael Kapuaala took advantage of a free kick near midfield, booting the ball high nearly 40 yards and into the goalie box.
The Pearl City goalkeeper fumbled the ball, allowing Warriors forward Kealani Warner to gain possession of the ball and pop it into the net for a 2-1 lead.
Coming off a halftime conservation with their coach, the Warriors held the Chargers scoreless for the rest of the game.
“We told them we needed more because Pearl City can always do damage, they got speed, so we just had to make sure our defense was on point and had the support from the midfielders and just try to hold the ball and not get sucked into Pearl City’s long ball because, you know, once you send it back, they send it right back our way,” Kaeo said. “So we were just trying to stay composed with the ball and control the game.”
Said Kamalani: “Our mindset was just keeping it 0-0 — it didn’t matter if it was 2-1, 1-1 — we just set it at 0-0 because that pushes us even further to score more and work harder.”
Frank Baumholtz, who has spent nearly 33 years as coach of the Chargers, said that the past few seasons have been challenging through the COVID-19 pandemic because they, along with most teams statewide, did not have the same opportunities to prepare junior varsity players to move through to varsity.
“The seniors tried their best all season long and I think today they really felt the pressure,” Baumholtz said. “You just have to come out and play the game, and if you play the game all together, on every single pass and on every single kick ball, things could have turned out different.”
Pearl City totaled five shot attempts in the match.
“We had two chances to tie and missed the whole goal,” Baumholtz said. “We gave up two earned goals, we can’t argue with that — they were well fought for. … I’m still really proud of the kids.”
Baumholtz added that the Warriors have a “war on their hands” as they face defending state champion and top-seeded Kamehameha Kapalama in the quarterfinals Thursday on Oahu.
Though Kamehameha Maui celebrated the win on Tuesday evening in front of their friends and families, they know they still have work to do.
Kaeo said that “we can be as ready as we can be” against a team that KSM lost 1-0 to two years ago in the state quarterfinals.
Still, Kamalani said that she is looking forward to the matchup in Waipio.
“I really just want to show that Maui can play,” she said.
* Dakota Grossman is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Girls Soccer State Championships
Tuesday’s Result • First Round
Kamehameha Maui 2, Pearl City 1
Thursday’s Games • Quarterfinals
At Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex
No. 3 King Kekaulike vs. Punahou, 1 p.m.
No. 2 Mililani vs. Hilo, 1 p.m.
No. 1 Kamehameha Kapalama vs. Kamehameha Maui, 3 p.m.
No. 4 Waiakea vs. Campbell, 3 p.m.
At Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex
Today’s Games • First Round
Seabury Hall vs. Mid-Pacific, 3 p.m.
Kalaheo vs. McKinley, 3 p.m.
Nanakuli vs. Waimea, 3 p.m.
Kapaa vs. Waianae, 3 p.m.
Seabury Hall-Mid Pacific loser vs. Kalaheo-McKinley loser, 1 p.m.
Nanakuli-Waimea loser vs. Kapaa-Waianae loser, 1 p.m.
No. 1 Kauai vs. Kalaheo-McKinley winner, 3 p.m.
Kamehameha Hawaii vs. Seabury Hall-Mid-Pacific winner, 3 p.m.
No. 2 Pac-Five vs. Nanakuli-Waimea winner, 3 p.m.
No. 3 Leilehua vs. Kapaa-Waianae winner, 3 p.m.