Intriguing subplots spice boys state soccer tourney
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
|NITTA: Returns to help Mililani win it again|
This week's AT&T Wireless Boys State Soccer Championships in Wailuku, Maui promises to offer something for everybody.
Here is a closer look at what's in store:
The favorite: No. 1 seed Mililani (12-0) won its first state title last year and appears poised to win its second. The Trojans return several key players from that championship team, including forwards/midfielders Gainor Nitta and Whitney Shimatsu, defenders Bronson Yee, Todd Suenaga, Chris Castell and Vance Harris, and goalkeeper Tommy Brown.
Forward Nathan Amous, a transfer from Kalaheo, is a dangerous player around the net (11 goals), as is sophomore Justin Kim (seven goals).
"I saw them in the (O'ahu Interscholastic Association) championship game and I was very impressed," Kamehameha coach Andrew Ah New said. "I thought they controlled the game (against Kaiser) and deserved to win (2-1). They always have a good team, because their community has a strong youth program and their boys have been playing together for a long time. They had a good team last year and they have a good chance to win again. In fact, I would be surprised if they're not in the finals."
The sleeper: No. 3 seed Kamehameha (9-1-2) is no stranger to high-level competition in a short time frame. To win the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title, the Warriors had to tie Iolani, 2-2; fight past Punahou, 2-1, two days later; then defeat Iolani, 3-1, five days after that.
The entire ILH schedule, with games three times a week in a double round-robin format, forced Kamehameha to play several crucial games in a tight race that simulated state tournament conditions.
"You could look at it that way," Ah New said. "For us, it's a relief that it's over. I just hope we can come out with the same intensity this week."
Kamehameha applies heavy offensive pressure with Kekoa Smith (seven goals), David Gualdarama (five goals), Kaui Wong (five goals), Alika Ah New and Kahai Macdonald. And the Warriors, 10 of whom played sick in the ILH championship game, had more than enough intensity to beat a strong Iolani team last Thursday.
"I'm glad they're in the other (bracket)," Mililani coach Jeff Yamamoto said. "They've played some really high-end games recently, so they're gonna be ready."
Andrew Ah New hopes so.
"My main concern is how much (the ILH season) took out of them," he said. "That's why we gave them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, just to recover. When we play again Thursday, they should be hungry. They're excited about it, for sure."
|STROMBACH: Moanalua goalie a baseball star|
Moanalua starts a goalkeeper, senior Jimmy Strombach, who never played the sport until this season. One of the Menehune's top scoring threats, senior striker Geoffrey Say, also is new to the sport.
But their inexperience isn't obvious to anyone who watches them play.
"We played Moanalua in the preseason and Strombach stopped almost all of our shots," Ah New said. "Then they told us this was his first year playing, and I said, 'Wow.' The way he moved and reacted to the ball, you couldn't tell."
Strombach is a first-team all-state outfielder on the Menehune baseball team who also set OIA records for receiving yards and touchdown receptions this past football season. Say, who scored three goals in the OIA tournament and had the winning penalty kick in a quarterfinal victory over Campbell, also plays baseball and is one of the state's best shortstops.
Like Moanalua, Campbell has several first-year soccer players who have made an immediate impact. The Sabers do have experienced standouts such as striker Michael Ryman, who was second-team all-state last year and led the OIA in goals this season with 18, sweeper Shaunsey Saito (second-team all-state in 2001) and goalkeeper Kawika Ishikawa. But five defenders are newcomers whom coach Frank Marotti brought over from the football team.
"For teams that have players like that, the learning curve is really steep," Mililani's Yamamoto said. "Campbell is a formidable team, because they have excellent athletes. Those kind of players are going to progress much better during the course of the season than the players who play year-round."
Mililani edged Campbell in the regular season, 3-2. Moanalua, meanwhile, lost to Kaiser, 6-0, in the regular season but won seven in a row after that before losing to the Cougars, 2-1, in the OIA semifinals.
Although some of Moanalua's players lack experience, its coach does not.
"Spencer (Machado) has been around a long time, and he's got a good eye in seeing how to defend and beat you," Ah New said. "He's real good at that."
Big Island treats: One player to watch is St. Joseph senior midfielder Gui (pronounced "Ghee") Freitas, whom some observers are calling the best player the Big Island has seen in the past 10 years, maybe ever.
Freitas, an exchange student from Brazil, scored 11 goals in nine regular season games to lead the Cardinals (12-5) to their first state tournament berth since 1982. This was despite missing 4 1/2 games with a nagging hamstring injury.
Kealakehe (12-3) is in its third varsity season and is making its third straight state tournament appearance.
The "home teams": For the second time in four years, the tournament will be played on Maui.
So although No. 2 seed Baldwin (7-1-2) and unseeded Seabury Hall (8-2-1) don't usually play at War Memorial Stadium, both are expected to enjoy at least a slight home-field advantage.
"The travelling could be a factor (for non-Maui teams)," said Mililani's Yamamoto, who graduated from Seabury Hall. "I know the last time the tournament was there, we were seeded No. 1 and lost. I have a bias toward Maui teams because that's where I'm from, but I know they're always physical and can be just as good as any O'ahu teams."
Seabury Hall won its tournament bid by defeating ILH runner-up Iolani, 2-1, Saturday.
As for the War Memorial turf, which took in a lot of rain last week and then was trampled by 300-pound football players at the Hula Bowl Saturday, Yamamoto said it shouldn't be a factor.
"It can't be any worse than some of the fields we've played on already," he said.
Predictions?: Neither Yamamoto nor Ah New said this tournament field is too wide open for that.
"Hilo (No. 4 seed, 14-1) is tough, just looking at preseason and who they've got back from last year's (state runner-up) team, which was excellent," Yamamoto said. "They've got a lot of returnees and some good younger players. And you can never discount Kapa'a, because no one knows too much about them. We've been going to states for a while, so we know that once you get there, everybody has a fair shot at the title."
Ah New agreed.
"All of these teams are fighters," he said. "If they weren't, they wouldn't be here."
First round at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku
- 1:30 p.m. St. Joseph (12-5) vs. Moanalua (10-4-0)
- 3:30 p.m. Kealakehe (12-3) vs. Kaiser (12-1-0)
- 5:30 p.m. Kapa'a (4-1-0) vs. Campbell (8-3-1)
- 7:30 p.m. Seabury Hall (8-2-1) vs. Castle (8-3-2)
Consolation bracket at Keopuolani Park, Wailuku
- 1:30 p.m. Kapa'a-Campbell loser vs. Seabury Hall-Castle loser
- 3:30 p.m. Kealakehe-Kaiser loser vs. St. Joseph-Moanalua loser
Quarterfinals at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku
- 1:30 p.m. No. 3 Kamehameha (10-1-2) vs. Kealakehe-Kaiser winner
- 3:30 p.m. No. 1 Mililani (12-0-0) vs. Kapa'a-Campbell winner
- 5:30 p.m. No. 4 Hilo (14-1) vs. Seabury Hall-Castle winner
- 7:30 p.m. No. 2 Baldwin (7-1-2) vs. St. Joseph-Moanalua winner
Consolation bracket at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku
- 1:30 p.m. Elimination game
- 3:30 p.m. Elimination game
Semifinals at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku
- 5:30 p.m. Quarterfinal winners
- 7:30 p.m. Quarterfinal winners
at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku
- 1:30 p.m. Consolation
- 3:30 p.m. Fifth-place game
- 5:30 p.m. Third place game
- 7:30 p.m. Championship game
Admission: Adults $7, students $5