Kamehameha's Shim homes in on third title
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
The lure of a challenge compelled her to leave.
Her love of Hawai'i brought her back.
Kamehameha senior midfielder Meleana "Mana" Shim, who lived on the Mainland for her junior year, is back to try to help the Warriors win their fourth straight state soccer title.
Kamehameha is the top seed for the JN Automotive Group/Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Girls Division Soccer State Championships that begin today at the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Complex.
"I'm really nervous, but more than anything I'm just excited to be a part of it," Shim said. "I missed it last year so much."
Long hailed as one of the most talented midfielders in the state — she was an Advertiser All-State first-team selection as a freshman and sophomore — Shim helped the Warriors win it all in 2006 and 2007.
She finished this season as the leading scorer in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu with 12 goals.
This morning, she plans on signing a national letter of intent with her dream school, Santa Clara.
That she is signing with the Broncos is possibly the result of a choice Shim made in 2007 that changed her life.
The draw of the Mainland — and tough competition day in and day out — took her thousands of miles from home.
"It's a whole different soccer world," said Shim, who made the decision the summer after her sophomore year. "It's extremely competitive and I felt like I was sheltered in a way in Hawai'i, not getting the whole experience."
Kamehameha coach Michele Nagamine said she was initially against Shim's decision.
"As she spoke more and more about it, I began to understand it wasn't a decision she was making lightheartedly," Nagamine said. "She is so passionate and dedicated to the game. It was something she had to do or it would stay with her for the rest of her life."
Like Nagamine, Shim's mother, Laurel Shim, didn't want her to leave.
"The hardest part at first was leaving my family," Shim said. "When I left I kind of just made the decision and went with it. I really knew inside that I had to go away."
At first, Shim was set to live and play in San Ramon, Calif. She registered for the local high school there and joined a club team.
Then came the offer from a friend in Arizona, Ellen Parker, whom Shim knew from Olympic Development Program camps.
"It sounded too appealing to me," Shim said. "But it sounded too perfect and I had everything set up (in California).
"(Arizona) was the ideal situation I was looking for. Everything I said I wanted on the Mainland, it was the full package."
So she decided to move, again.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., Shim joined the Sereno Soccer Club, one of the nation's premier soccer clubs. She worked out at the Athlete's Performance Institute, sometimes next to Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn, and was homeschooled.
"Initially I was really shocked. It was a culture shock, and being away from my family, I didn't know what to expect," Shim said. "I adjusted pretty quickly. I was surprised. Once I was there for a week, I didn't get homesick at all.
"I missed my family, but I felt like I did what I had to do. I never questioned my decision."
And for the first time, soccer became a challenge — one she embraced.
"Every day it was a battle. It was worse than games," Shim said. "For the first time I was actually fighting for a spot on the team, and a starting position. It's different because they have so many players to choose from."
Shim knew her stay on the Mainland would only be for a year.
"But that was hard too because it wasn't that I was using this family because they really took me in and took care of me. And it was hard to leave the team, too, but I really wanted to come home, especially before I went to college.
"I missed it too much."
While Shim grew as a soccer player, her time away benefited her in other ways as well.
"I think she seems a lot more settled, a lot more confident," Nagamine said. "It was kind of like she was searching for herself. How can you embrace the role of the leader as a freshman?
"It communicates her soccer ability, but she was 14."
Now, Shim has adjusted to a leadership role. Not difficult, considering Nagamine describes her as being "loving, caring, endearing. She has a sunshiny effect" on everyone.
"It was different because suddenly I was one of the older players," Shim said. "I was like, 'What happened? Where are the seniors?' And people were like, 'You are a senior.' "
When she met her new teammates, "They were all so sweet and welcoming," she said. "I kind of felt like a traitor. But they understood and they were really nice to me; so nice to me. It was a good feeling."
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.