Taaca is state's best
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
On the biggest stage, in the biggest games, Kamehameha senior goalkeeper Kanani Taaca stepped up and had her best performances.
For what she meant on and off the field for the state champion Warriors, Taaca was named The Advertiser All-State Player of the Year.
"Somebody that is deserving is the one who puts it all out on the field, and she does that," Pearl City co-head coach Tracee Kono said. "Her leadership and character helped keep (the Warriors) together."
Taaca's coach, Michele Nagamine, said she was a key reason the Warriors repeated as state champions.
"She plays with a confidence that is contagious to the rest of her teammates," Nagamine said. "Especially coming this year with such a young team, she just rallied them and got them going."
The Taaca-led defense shut out opponents in the state tournament, including a semifinal that went into penalty kicks. Taaca was named the tournament MVP for the second year in a row.
"You can tell which goalies really thrive on it and which ones are scared, and she looked like she was having too much fun," Kono said. "As long as her teammates put it in, she would stop at least one or two."
The first-team forwards are Kalani junior Tani Costa, Pearl City senior Meghan Fuller, Punahou senior Erin Rementer and Kamehameha senior Sanoe Souza.
Costa, possibly the most talented player in the state, scored 19 goals in the regular season to lead all O'ahu scorers — boys or girls.
"She is the epitome of a true forward," Nagamine said. "You know she's going to be the one to score, but you can't do anything to stop it. You know what you need to do, but doing it is another story."
Fuller, a speedy and skilled striker, led the OIA champion Chargers with 12 goals in the regular season.
"I really like her movement off the ball and high defensive pressure," Nagamine said. "Her work rate inspires other people to step their work rate up ... and she scores goals."
Rementer, known for her ability to take players one-on-one at full speed, scored a league-high 11 goals and added three more in the state tournament.
"She was our nightmare," said Kono of Rementer, who scored two against the Chargers in the state semifinals. "I thought she created a lot of opportunities. I'm glad she's graduating."
Souza, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Offensive Player of the Year, helped the Warriors win ILH and state titles with clutch performances.
"She was a dominating force on the field, especially around the goal," Punahou coach Matt Martinson said. "She had a really lethal shot."
Punahou senior Brittney Sanford, Mililani junior Chelsey Goo and Kamehameha junior Amber Fuller are the first-team midfielders.
Sanford "controlled the middle," Kono said. "A lot of their scoring opportunities started with her, whether it was distribution of balls or her free kicks. If we were able to stop her, then we were able to stop the scoring opportunities for Punahou."
Goo was the maestro in the middle for the Trojans, with good field sense and ability to distribute the ball.
"Out of everybody this season, she improved the most," Kono said. "She had the biggest impact. When she had good games, the team did well."
Amber Fuller, the spunky, spritely midfielder for the Warriors, combined good skill, speed and soccer smarts.
"I like her speed and she just seemed to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time," Martinson said.
Punahou senior Jayann Gabrio, Pearl City senior Amy Tanaka, Mililani sophomore Chelsey Miyake and Kapolei senior Chaney Lopez are the defenders on the first team.
Gabrio, the ILH Defensive Player of the Year, solidified a Buffanblu defense that allowed four goals in 16 games.
"To have a defender like her who has great size and is really good in the air, with skill, she's the total package," Nagamine said. "She can play it out of the back, with the ball at her feet, or clear it 40 yards if she needs to."
Tanaka, the OIA Red West Player of the Year, anchored a Chargers defense that didn't allow a goal in the regular season.
"She had experience and she didn't make mistakes that lesser experienced defenders make," said Martinson, who called her consistent and effective.
Miyake, the lone sophomore on the first team, "plays with a lot of confidence for such a young player," Nagamine said. "I remember specifically telling my team you can't give away anything (fouls) in our half, because her set pieces are amazing. Her technique is perfect."
Lopez, a repeat first-team selection, "was the heart and soul of (Kapolei's) defense," Kono said. "There were times I thought they could have gotten scored on if it wasn't for her."
Nagamine was named Coach of the Year after guiding the Warriors to their third straight state title.
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.