Friendly foes could meet in soccer final
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
Together, they won a national championship. This weekend, they will do all they can to deny the other and win one alone.
Southern Methodist senior forward Duke Hashimoto and New Mexico sophomore midfielder David Gualdarama, both from Hawai'i, will play in the NCAA Men's Division I College Cup, the final four for soccer.
"The thing about me and him is that we have been playing with or against each other since he was 6 or 7, and I was 8 or 9," Hashimoto said. "It's a situation where he's my friend, and I feel this way and I'm pretty sure he feels this way, but we really don't care, we just want to beat each other."
Hashimoto, a 2002 Iolani graduate, and Gualdarama, a 2004 graduate of Kamehameha, helped the Honolulu Soccer Club Bulls '85 team win the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Under-19 National Championship in 2004.
"I've known (Hashimoto) since we were really young, like AYSO," Gualdarama said. "It will be pretty exciting if we meet each other in the finals. But I haven't really talked to him (about it)."
Southern Methodist (14-5-3) plays top-seeded Maryland (17-4-2) and second-seeded New Mexico (18-1-2) plays Clemson (15-5-3) at Cary, N.C., in the semifinals Friday.
The Maryland-SMU game will be televised on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. Hawai'i time.
The winners advance to the championship Sunday, which will be televised live on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. Hawai'i time.
Unseeded Southern Methodist and Clemson have upset several top teams on their way to the College Cup. But, as Gualdarama pointed out, "Everyone's on a hot streak right now."
To advance to the College Cup, SMU defeated San Francisco, 2-1; fifth-seeded UCLA, 3-0; UNC Greensboro, 3-1; and fourth-seeded North Carolina, 3-2, in overtime.
Hashimoto had three goals and two assists in the four games. He leads SMU with 11 goals and is tied for the team lead with seven assists, for 29 points.
"I think as a whole, our team has been clicking," he said. "We're just playing really well, finding each other and getting good goal-scoring opportunities. I don't think it's just me, I think it's just how well our team has been playing."
Hashimoto, the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, said a turning point of the season actually came after SMU lost to New Mexico, 2-0. The Mustangs were 2-4-1 at that point, and held a team meeting to refocus.
"We played tough teams and really struggled against them," Hashimoto said. "After that point, the team got back on track. We tied Creighton (which made it to the Elite Eight) the next day and went on a streak during the conference season."
The Mustangs have gone 12-1-1 since tying Creighton, and qualified for their first College Cup since 2000.
New Mexico, which advanced to the College Cup for the first time in program history, received a first-round bye, then went on to beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2-2, in two overtimes, advancing 5-3 on penalty kicks; 15th-seeded Cal State Northridge, 1-0, in overtime; and seventh-seeded California, 1-0, in overtime.
"Even during the regular season, we've been in 10 overtimes," Gualdarama said. "I guess it's just part of the game (for us now). It just takes a little more time. It gives us confidence. It's not what we want to do, but it's all right."
Gualdarama, who started 12 of 18 games after recovering from a muscle strain on his left leg, helped set up the game-tying score against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 80th minute when he was fouled just outside the penalty box, allowing his teammate to score on the ensuing free kick.
"It's pretty intense right now, everything is going kind of quick," said Gualdarama, who spend this past summer playing for the Puerto Rican Under-20 National Team. "I'm trying to take care of school. I had to reschedule my finals."
Gualdarama said the team is used to a big-game atmosphere. As the second seed, the Lobos hosted their first three games, drawing about 5,600 people against California.
"(The fans) broke down the fences when we won (against California)," he said. "They carried the goals around."
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.