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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Punahou's Lipsher saved her best for last

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Punahou senior Allison Lipsher "controls her position as well as directs her defense," says one opposing coach.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Punahou senior goalkeeper Allison Lipsher did not record a lot of saves this season.

But she made three huge saves in the penalty-kick phase of the state championship game to lift the Buffanblu to their second straight title.

For her efforts, Lipsher was named the Advertiser's State Player of the Year.

"Yeah, I figured," said Kamehameha forward India Soo, when she heard Lipsher was the Player of the Year. "She deserved it."

Lipsher, who earned the honor after a vote of 10 coaches and media throughout the state, led a the Buffanblu team that did not allow a goal this season.

"She gave us that added dimension; she didn't get the 25 shots a game, where she had to save us every time, but they knew that if the game was on the line, she would be there," Punahou coach Jorge Barbosa said.

Lipsher was a part of a defense that rarely allowed a shot. And, "if the big shot is taken, Alli will take care of it; she gives (the defense) the confidence to play with some risk," Barbosa said.

Lipsher, who played behind All-State first-teamer Kelsey Baker and second-teamer Chelsea Deptula, hardly had to make any saves during the Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular season. But in the state tournament, she came up big, including a one-on-one stop in the championship game against Mililani.

"I think Alli is one of the most poised goalkeepers," Mililani coach Ray Akiona said. "She controls her position as well as directs her defense, which keeps them as a close-knit group."

Lipsher, a repeat selection to the first team, signed a scholarship with Duke. She also was named to the NSCAA/adidas 2003 Youth All-America Girls Team last December.

"She's very modest, she'll be the first one to give all her teammates the glory, and she shines away from the personal stuff," Barbosa said.

Four forwards were selected to the first team: 'Aiea sophomore Ambree Ako, Baldwin senior Kami Kapaku, Kamehameha's Soo and Mililani junior Sarah Yoro.

Ako used her speed and skills to score a team-high 12 goals as 'Aiea went unbeaten in the OIA Western Division.

Kapaku, the Maui Interscholastic League Player of the Year, overcame a preseason injury to score 16 goals and lead the Bears to the MIL title.

"She has really good vision, she can see the field, and her skill is unbelievable," Baldwin coach Kawika Keator said. "She can do anything with the ball."

Kapaku, who was last year's MIL Player of the Year in basketball, was selected to the first team as a sophomore in 2002, when Baldwin won its second state title, and was a second-team selection last year.

Soo, a senior, was named the ILH Co-Offensive Player of the Year. The speedy front-runner scored a league-high seven goals. In November, she accepted a scholarship to play basketball for Idaho State.

Yoro, the OIA West Player of the Year, was second in the league in scoring with 13 goals. She started the season as a halfback, and helped the Trojans go from fourth place in the West to OIA champions.

"Sarah is one of those players who has the next play set up in her mind before it happens," Akiona said. "She has a gift to anticipate plays."

Mililani senior Nicole Harris, Punahou junior Rachael Lau and 'Aiea senior Jodie Toyama were selected to the first team as midfielders.

Harris, a repeat selection from last year's first team, was a main ingredient for the Trojans, who won their third straight OIA title and finished second in the state. She controlled the midfield, winning a majority of the airballs.

"She has really good skills, a good touch, and nice passes," Keator said.

"She was the key for Mililani," 'Aiea coach Gordon Matsuoka said. "She controlled the offense and the defense from the center, and she was one of the leaders."

Lau, who was the ILH Co-Offensive Player of the Year, finished second in the league in scoring with six goals. Her field vision and craftiness forced opposing teams to key on her.

Toyama, a steady presence for Na Ali'i, was a left-footed outside halfback whose crosses regularly fed her two forwards. Being left-footed, a rarity in soccer, allowed Toyama to dominate the left side of the field. She was a second-team All-State selection last year.

"She has a very strong foot, she plays aggressively, and she plays to win," Matsuoka said. "And she was a leader for the team."

All the defenders selected to the first team are juniors: Punahou's Baker, 'Aiea's Tehane Higa, and Mililani's Erin Kikumoto.

Baker, who was selected to the first team last year, was one of the main reasons why the Buffanblu did not allow a goal the entire season. A central defender, she rarely allowed an opposing team to penetrate Punahou's defensive third of the field.

"She's the true gamer; when the game is on, she's there," Barbosa said. "She turns it on, she's got unbelievable concentration. There is no better defender in the state right now."

Higa had a breakout year for 'Aiea, helping Na Ali'i to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament. She provided speed and stability to the backline, winning a lot of balls in the middle of the field.

"I think Tehane is one of the best defenders in the state," Matsuoka said. "She's very hard to get by; she played where the strongest player on the (opposing) offense would be."

Kikumoto was the fireplug on defense, controlling the backfield for the Trojans. The transfer from Punahou was a capable replacement for first-team defender Mallory Iha, who graduated last year.

"Erin is a great hustler with excellent speed and she has the fortitude to stay on a player until she gets the job done," Akiona said.

Punahou's Barbosa was selected as the Coach of the Year after leading the Buffanblu to their second straight state title and fourth straight ILH championship.

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

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