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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Watanabe, Castle are off to unbeaten start

 • Standings: Soccer

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Castle midfielder Aimee Watanabe had two assists during a 5-1 victory over Kaiser last Saturday. Watanabe leads the O'ahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Division with nine goals this season.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

When senior center midfielder Aimee Watanabe asked to get out of a soccer practice recently, Castle coach Mark Kane readily agreed.

After all, his star player needed to get ready for her night as queen of Castle's Winterball.

"I asked him if I could not practice, because my hair couldn't get wet, otherwise it wouldn't curl," said Watanabe, who was voted as the queen by her classmates. "I felt kind of bad, because all we did was run."

Watanabe has proved her worth, leading the O'ahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Division with nine goals this season, and helping Castle (7-0-0) to first place in the division.

"This is the first time in my high school career that we have such a good record," Watanabe said. "We actually have a really good chance of making it to states."

Watanabe, who has been a starter since her freshman year, has yet to play in a state tournament.

Kane said this season Watanabe is making a difference in helping the Castle offense run smoothly.

"She can hold the ball in the center of the field and find the passing lanes," Kane said. "That helps us a lot, because otherwise the passing gets really random. She settles things down."

And opposing coaches know it.

"I know Coach Kane relies on her for almost everything in the game," said Kaiser coach Adolph Samuels, whose team lost to Castle, 5-1, on Saturday. Watanabe had two assists in the win.

"I was impressed with her," Samuels said. "We tried to isolate and shut her down, but we couldn't do that. Coach Kane is lucky he has her; she's awesome. She's the total package."

Castle has outscored opponents 27-3 this season, and "more than 50 percent of our goals have been on her assists," Kane said. "Directly or indirectly, she's involved in almost every goal we've scored."

Watanabe, who was named to the Advertiser's All-State first team last year, was also the OIA Eastern Division's co-Player of the Year with Kahuku's Krisha Kai, who is now playing for the University of Hawai'i.

"Because I got that last year, I felt like I had to live up to the expectations of other people," Watanabe said. "But I tend not to think about that because I have so much fun."

Watanabe said she is interested in extending her soccer career either at the University of the Pacific or the University of Oregon.

Before then, she said that the team is concentrating on finishing out the rest of the regular season. The Knights have three games remaining, including a game Jan. 24 against Moanalua (5-1-0), which is tied for second place.

She said that starting out undefeated helps in the playoff race for the Knights.

"We were pressured at the end of last year," she said. "Starting off strong helps, it isn't as bad this year."

Watanabe said that part of the reason the team is successful is because of its chemistry.

"We're so goofy, and we all know how to have fun, but we also know when to get serious."

Because Watanabe has the Knights off to a solid start this season, Kane was accommodating when Watanabe asked to miss practice the day of the Winterball last month. And her teammates weren't surprised when she was voted queen.

"She's a real people person, and she gets along with just about anyone; everyone likes her," said Natasha Flores, a Castle senior center midfielder. "She has a very positive, optimistic attitude towards things.

"She's funny, she'll always find a way to make you laugh. She makes you happy when you're sad, she's that kind of person. "

Kane said Watanabe, who is a captain this year, is a main reason the team is getting along so well.

"She's the glue," he said. "On and off the field, she holds us together. She's a positive person who wants to succeed and she makes everyone else want to achieve that, too."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.