KEAAU – Halle Nottage’s fourth goal gave Makua Lani a victory that was nice to have.
Nottage’s third goal was just as big. That one helped deny Keaau a win it had to have.
Backed by a noteworthy assist Monday by Elizabeth Evans, Nottage and the Lions ended the Cougars’ playoff hopes, helping Kealakehe secure the final postseason spot in BIIF girls Division I with a 4-3 victory in the final match of the regular season.
“Halle just came back from an injury, and I think she was wanting to score a lot of goals,” Makua Lani coach Riley Alcos said.
Playing on its waterlogged field, Keaau needed a win to leapfrog the Waveriders in the standings and was ahead 3-2 midway through the second half when Evans turned and sent what Alcos called the “perfect throughball” to Nottage, who tied the match.
Evans did a solid not just for the Lions but also for her mom, Waveriders coach Kim Evans.
Tuesday’s Division I semifinals will feature not one not two rivalries. Kealakehe (4-6-1 Blue) returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence and travels to play Konawaena (9-2-1 White), while Waiakea (6-5 Red) and Hilo (9-1-1 Red) battle it out at Hilo Bayfront with the winners securing HHSAA Division I tournament spots and advancing to Saturday’s BIIF championship match in Kealakekua.
The Lions (3-8-1 White) will be back in Keaau on Wednesday across the way at Kamehameha (8-4 White) for the Division II semifinals. The Warriors swept two matches during the regular season, winning 8-0 and 3-0.
Tied 2-2 at halftime Monday, Kierstyn Yamamoto scored on a penalty kick for her second goal of the match and Maurice Riingen finished her stellar season with a nifty goal for the Cougars (3-6-2 Blue), who were trying to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row under first-year coach Rosi Handy.
Both teams were running on fumes and low on substitutes, but Alcos admired the way Makua Lani got down and dirty despite not having nearly as much to play for as the Cougars.
“We were missing three starters, so we just kind of went in with the mindset of enjoying a late regular season match and having fun with it,” Alcos said. “The pitch wasn’t ideal for practicing for a certain style of play. I would say the main thing was avoiding injuries.”
One of the many mud holes on the field was directly in front of the Lions’ bench, so Alcos simply took off his sandals and walked around barefoot.
“It was like being down in a taro field at Waipio Valley,” he said.
Nottage opened the scoring after taking a short pass off a direct kick from Whitney O’Halloran, and she closed it on a penalty kick.
Her return from injury boosts a Lions team that is severely shorthanded compared to the 2017 squad, which featured 25 players, nearly a full complement of substitutes and standouts Akari Shimizu and Cressy Kerr – both of whom elected to play at a developmental academy on the mainland.
“It’s different this year,” Alcos said, “but I wouldn’t trade this group for anything.”
Makua Lani 4, Keaau 2: Isaiah Easley scored twice and Kahoku Benson and Johnathan Berg scored a goal apiece as the to lift the Lions (4-6-1 Lions), who ended a five-match winless streak.
Rico Handy and Christian Mamone scored for the Cougars (2-8).