Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Hawai'i seeks to make waves at soccer regional

By Baxter Cepeda
Advertiser Staff Writer

Justin Kim, left, gets past Mike Kopra in a recent match. Kim and his club, the Honolulu Bulls under-18 boys team are a favorite to win at the regional tournament and advance to nationals.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Phil Neddo, director of coaching for the Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club, wants Hawai'i soccer to kick it up a notch and grab some attention on the national level.

The Hawai'i Youth Soccer Association will get its chance to do that when the Snickers 2003 U.S. Youth Soccer Association Far West Regionals begin Monday at the Waip'io Peninsula Soccer Park.

The 430-game, six-day event will feature 19 teams from Hawai'i, all trying to become the first from the state to win a regional and qualify for nationals.

If a team from Hawai'i wins, Neddo said, the standard will be set for future squads.

"People will say, 'if you are really good, you have to win regionals,' " he said.

This is the first time Hawai'i will host the Region IV tourney, and it will be the largest soccer event held in the state. The tournament will feature about 4,000 players on 212 boys and girls teams from 13 states in eight age groups (under 12 to under 19).

USYSA has 3.1 million registered players across the nation, as opposed to American Youth Soccer Association's (AYSO) 600,000 members nationally. AYSO hosted its nationals in Hawai'i last year.

Hawai'i teams

BU12—HSC Bulls '91 Kaula B

BU12—Na Koa*

GU12—Ho'okalakupua GFA

BU13—WSC Volcanoes '90

GU13—Kool Too

GU13—Leahi '90*

BU14—RHFC Real Copa '89B

GU14—Leahi '89

BU15—HSC Bulls '88 Kaula B

GU15—MSC Strikers '88G BU16—MSC Strikers '87B

GU16—Leahi '87

BU17—RHFC Real Copa '86B

GU17—HSC Bulls '86 Kaula G

BU18—HSC Bulls '85 Kaula B

GU18—Na Kolohe

BU19—MSC Strikers Gold '85

BU19—Aces '84*

GU19—HSC Bulls '84 Kaula G

* Wild-card team

Hawai'i's best chance

The winner of each division will receive a berth to the USYSA national tournament.

Neddo does not care if one of the teams from the Bulls' club or another club becomes the first team from the state to win regionals, but said the Bulls under-18 team is arguably the team with the best chance.

"It will be a sight to see this team play," Neddo said.

Sean Richardson, director of coaching for Real Hawai'i Futbol Club, which will have two teams in the tournament (under-14 boys and under-17 boys), agrees with Neddo.

"The Bulls' under-18 team is a very experienced, very traveled, very seasoned group of guys," Richardson said. "Their team has incredible pace. They have a definite opportunity to win the regional championship."

Many of the boys that now make up the Bulls' under-18 team have been together for seven years and competed in the past six regionals. The team has eight players that were all-state first team selections this year, plus two college players.

Arguably the best player on the Bulls under-18 team is Iolani graduate and SMU all-conference freshman Duke Hashimoto.

"Duke has the most experience," captain Richie Higa, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu player of the year, said. "He's tremendously fast and our best finisher."

Hashimoto, the 2002 Advertiser State Player of the Year, complements a team that uses quickness and teamwork to its advantage.

"It's something we should do since we are not that tall, not at all," said Higa, a midfielder who received a partial scholarship to the University of Massachusettes-Amherst. "We try to make combinations, get in and score."

Joining Hashimoto and Higa will be Punahou second-team all-state goalkeeper David Semenza, who will attend Brown University; Punahou first-team all-state sweeper Steve Carlson, a senior to-be; and Brandon Tario, an ILH second team midfielder from Kamehameha Schools.

Kalaheo Max Anton, a striker, will play at Notre Dame next year.

Also on the team will be Justin Kim, the MVP for state champion Mililani; Punahou's Satoshi Mitsuda, the 2002 Gatorade high school player of the year, and teammate Tamatoa Hackney, a first team all- state selection; and Kamehameha midfielder David Gualdarama, also first team all-state and a U.S. National Region team member.

"There's a lot that made all-state that wouldn't make our team," Neddo said.