By MATT GERHART
By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The level of play didn’t quite mirror the pinpoint midfield passing clinics that they put on in high school as they helped Honokaa rule the state for two consecutive years. But Robert Connors and Chayce Moniz were back for one last go-around Sunday under coach Maurice Miranda.
The end of an era brought one final championship.
Connors netted a highlight goal and Sean Quinlan scored the eventual game-winner as North Hawaii edged Keahi 2-1 in the under-19 title game of the Volcano International Soccer Tournament on a muggy day at Hilo Bayfront.
“It’s been awesome, unbelievable,” Connors said of the player-coach bond.
The journey for Connors and Moniz started when they were U-10 players on Miranda’s American Youth Soccer Association team. It culminated in back-to-back Division II Hawaii High School Athletic Association titles with the Dragons in 2011 and ’12.
Miranda brought his prized pupils back for Volcano, in part, to help mentor the current members of the Dragons. Both Moniz, a sophomore-to-be at Colorado Mines, and Connors, a sophomore at Colorado Mesa will lose their AYSO eligibility at the end of the month.
“We’re here to help the younger players develop and push them along,” Connors said. “Mostly to build the spirits of the team.”
He led by example in the first half with a vintage goal that Miranda has seen him pull off many times. Connors dribbled through center, split three defenders then scored on a left-footer from about 20 yards away to put North Hawaii ahead 1-0.
“We worked on his left foot all through high school. Just watching (Moniz and Connors) grow and mature and understand the system has been something to watch,” Miranda said. “They get it, they understand it and have been doing it for so long.”
He was also pleased with the growth of a pair of sophomore fullbacks, Zechariah Ugalde and Kyle Ohta.
“We’re looking for guys who can fight and maintain concentration,” Miranda said.
The only blemish for North Hawaii’s backline was Max Darris’ goal late in the first half. Earlier, Dane Miyata almost scored the equalizer for Keahi with a shot that hit the post. The team was put together by 2013 Hilo High graduate Justin Shiigi and was made up of past and present Vikings.
North Hawaii had one former Hilo player, Luke Memmer. He almost scored for the second straight day against his former teammates, but his blast was stopped by goalkeeper Katon Pestano.
While Miranda enjoyed one last look at Honokaa’s past, he also got a good glimpse of the present in the second half when Quinlan, a fleet-footed senior, attacked down the right flank and managed to stay on sides before burying the go-ahead goal.
Connors appreciates his younger teammates, but it doesn’t mean he can’t give them some good-natured ribbing for the Dragons’ failure to threepeat last season.
“I (tease) them every day,” he said with a smile.
A host of players on both teams — Keahi’s Darris, Shiigi and Eddie Torrison and North Hawaii’s Clayton Robinson and Cassidy Dixon — are gearing up for the University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s soccer season, and anxiously awaiting for the program to hire a coach.
“I hope so,” said Dixon, a goalkeeper. “I really hope so.”
Abunai 8, Hilo Girls 1: McKenna Davidson scored four times as Abunai repeated its U19 championship.
The game featured a who’s who of East Hawaii soccer talent — expect for Davidson, the 2012 Big Island Interscholastic Federation Player of Year for Kealakehe.
“I didn’t practice with the team, but it’s easy to connect with these girls,” said Davidson, who led Pacific University (Ore.) in scoring with four goals last season as a freshman. “It’s pretty easy to pick it back up again.”
Teisha Nacis, a sophomore at UHH, and Kera Akiyama, a former Kamehameha-Hawaii standout who’s set to head off for Northern Arizona University, each tallied a goal and an assist.
“Teisha, McKenna and Nathalie Orevillo grew up together, so I wanted them to play together,” said coach Nathan Orevillo. “This team is awesome. They are all-stars, but these girls can play together.”
Taylor Pacheco, a 2013 Hilo graduate and Sachi Iwata of Kamehameha-Hawaii also scored for Abunai. In goal, Taylor Feato of Christian Liberty made her best save when she stonewalled Hilo’s Harley Dela Cruz in the second half.
Lii Maertens opened the scoring for Hilo.
The score could have been worse if not for goalkeeper Hiwa Brown, who made six saves in the first half.