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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Punahou's Baker named Player of Year

 •  Game breakers
 •  Advertiser's All-State first team

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

If you listened carefully the morning of Feb. 20, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from high school girls soccer coaches around the state.

Senior defender Kelsey Baker helped Punahou to a 45-4-5 record in her four seasons at Punahou. Baker has committed to play for Pepperdine.

Photos by Deborah Booker and Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was the day after the state final, and it meant Punahou senior defender Kelsey Baker's career had ended.

"For sure, they're happy, she's done some damage over the last four years," Punahou coach Jorge Barbosa said. "If you ask me, obviously, I'm not too happy."

Baker, who committed to Pepperdine, was selected as The Advertiser's State Player of the Year in a vote of nine coaches and media around the state.

"As an opposing coach, it's a relief to see that she's gone, but I wanted to watch her play more," Moanalua coach Nikki Dela Pena said. "I'm just excited to see how she does at the college level — she surpassed the high school level."

Baker, a three-time All-State first-team pick, amassed a 45-4-5 record as a four-year starter at Punahou, with three state championships and four Interscholastic League of Honolulu titles. She was the ILH Defensive Player of the Year this season.

"She's a smart defender; she's always talking," Barbosa said. "The goalie and the rest of the defenders are better because of her. She reads the game well, and her communication is key."

'Aiea senior Tobi Kanehira, Mililani senior Sarah Yoro, Pearl City senior Chelsea Arakawa, Moanalua sophomore Vanessa Butin and Iolani sophomore Samantha Teramae were selected as the first-team forwards.

Kanehira could launch myriad shots from all over the field with either foot. She scored 11 goals in the regular season, and added three in the postseason to lead Na Ali'i to the O'ahu Interscholastic Association title.

"She came through for us in the clutch," 'Aiea coach Gordon Matsuoka said. "I think she's one of the better ball handlers in the state."

Yoro, a repeat first-team selection who signed with the University of Oregon, scored 15 goals in the regular season to tie for the OIA lead.

"She has what it takes; we tried to pay special attention to her and it didn't work," Dela Pena said.

Arakawa tied Yoro for the OIA lead with 15 goals in the regular season, and added six in the postseason.

"Whoever plays Pearl City has to keep an eye on her, you can't leave her alone." Barbosa said.

Butin, the OIA East Player of the Year, scored a division-high nine goals and scored in an upset over 'Aiea in the state semifinals, leading Moanalua to its first state final.

Teramae, who scored four goals in the ILH, was a crafty attacker. Three of her goals helped Iolani to league wins; her fourth was one of three goals allowed by Punahou.

Punahou's Lizzy Carlson and Kelsie Look, and Hilo junior Katrina Chong were first-team midfielders.

Carlson, a junior, is "a terrific player, always has a smile on her face," Barbosa said.

She scored four goals during the ILH season, and scored two goals and had two assists in the state tournament.

Look, a senior, was selected the ILH Offensive Player of the Year. She scored a league-high six goals, and scored in the state championship game.

"She's so fast and she's on the ball," Dela Pena said. "It was hard for two of our players to mark her."

Chong, who played forward most of the season but moved to midfield in the state tournament, led the state in scoring with 25 goals, and was the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year.

Along with Baker, Mililani's Erin Kikumoto and 'Aiea's Tehane Higa, both seniors, were repeat first-team selections as defenders.

Kikumoto, the OIA West Player of the Year, anchored a defense that allowed three goals this season.

"She's like a pit bull, once she makes up her mind that she's coming after you, she does," Barbosa said.

With Higa, who signed with the University of Hawai'i, "it was like I had two sweepers because she was able to cover for me in the back," Matsuoka said. "Jorge thinks he has the best fullback, and I think I have the best fullback in the state."

Mililani senior goalkeeper Ashley Nakamoto, listed optimistically at 5 feet 4, played much bigger than her small stature.

"I think she plays very aggressively and she comes out for the ball well, even if she doesn't have the height," Matsuoka said. "She covers a lot of the goal because she's able to anticipate."

Dela Pena was named the Coach of the Year for leading the Menehunes to a second-place finish in the state.

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

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