KEALAKEKUA — As the BIIF Division II championship started on Saturday, it would have been easy for Kamehameha to lose sight of its goal.
But that wasn’t because of distractions or anything of that sort.
It was hard for the Warriors’ players to see more than few yards in front of them — let alone either net — after a thick fog took over an already muddy Julian Yates Field prior to kickoff.
But instead of fighting the conditions, the Warriors (8-4) embraced them as a sign that the winds of change had finally arrived.
After battling to a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtime periods, Kamehameha upset eight-time defending BIIF champion Hawaii Prep 5-4 on penalty kicks.
“When that fog rolled in, it felt like something had finally changed,” Kamehameha-Hawaii goalkeeper Kiani Troy said. “We looked at each other and knew we were going to work our hardest and do it for each other.”
The win stops a skid of six straight runner-up finishes for the Warriors, which also featured a loss to a Ka Makani in the state final in 2016.
“It’s hard to lose every year to the same team, but everyone stepped up,” Kamehameha forward Hevani Haunga said. “It’s a relief.”
When asked for an MVP of the game, Kamehameha head coach Joshua Woodard had the perfect answer.
“The whole dang team,” he said with a laugh. “That’s the hardest I’ve ever seen them work. They had a chip on their shoulder the whole year and laid it all on the line. ”
The title streak is over for Hawaii Prep (11-2), but Ka Makani left the pitch with their heads held high.
“I’m proud of the girls. We worked hard for 100 minutes and had some great opportunities,” Hawaii Prep head coach Steve Perry said. “It just didn’t go in.”
Both teams — along with Makua Lani, which won the BIIF third place game earlier in the evening — are HHSAA state tournament bound. The first round begins Feb. 7 on Oahu.
“We will celebrate this one tonight,” Woodard said, “but then it’s on to the state tournament.”
For the four-time defending state champion Ka Makani, the route to a fifth title is still there. It will just be a little different than they’re used to.
“This is a good group,” Perry said. “They will be ready to get to it — ready to chase that next goal.”
As if there were hundreds of smoke machines behind the scoreboard, a thick fog rolled onto the pitch as the teams were introduced. By the time kickoff happened, the soccer game turned into a fast-paced, hide-and-seek matchup, with puddles serving as obstacles.
Perry called the conditions “unfortunate,” while Woodward opted for “unusual.”
Both were accurate.
“I’ve never seen a game being played with that much fog,” Woodard said. “Plus the wet turf, I had no idea what was going on.”
As the fog slowly dissipated through the first 40 minutes, Hawaii Prep’s dynamic duo of Teah Van Bergen and Emi Higgins revved up the Ka Makani engine with early chances. Higgins rang a ball off the field goal post just a few feet above the net from about 45 yards out, and Van Bergen came up just inches short on a few of her first half runs.
It was anything but a one-sided affair, however. Kamehameha’s speedy forwards were able to generate chances, their best opportunity coming when a Hawaii Prep midfielder slipped on the turf. But — as the soccer gods would have it — what looked like it would be the go-ahead goal late in the half for the Warriors turned into a slow-rolling shot when Nanea Delostrico got stuck in the mud on her strike.
Kamehameha maintained some early pressure to open the second half, but Ka Makani battled back with a few scoring chances of their own, a good chunk of those being generated by tough play in the midfield by Jordan Zarate — who won the award for dirtiest jersey on the pitch — and crosses from winger Isabella Police.
Police, a quick-footed freshman, also had to chance to give Ka Makani its first lead off a cross from Higgins midway through the second half, but the shot skipped wide.
As the time ticked away, things started to get a little more anxious on the field and for the raucous crowd on hand in Kealakekua.
In the final minutes of regulation, Haunga let a hard-angled shot go that looked like it would be a casual save for Hawaii Prep keeper Maia Mills. But with a puddle of mud in her net and the ball being wet, it slipped through Mills’ hands, between her legs and tested the goal line before she was able to snag the ball, just in time.
She made a much more sure-handed save on a free kick from just outside the box seconds later to ease the nerves of the Ka Makani faithful, but it didn’t last long. Haunga fed a sneaky cross in the box to Hiilei Wong Yuen, but the senior just couldn’t get her body around in time to finish.
With no goals on the board, the game moved to overtime, and then double-overtime. Both periods didn’t feature a whole lot of offense until the closing seconds of the second OT. Higgins lined up a free kick from 35 yards out that was a line drive, but Troy turned it away.
Troy is a senior, but it’s just a her second year playing keeper for the Warriors, maintaining that volleyball is her first sport. But all of a sudden, she was center-stage for penalty kicks.
Troy got at least a finger on the majority of the Ka Makani’s five kicks, but the Warriors sideline erupted when Hawaii Prep’s third shot floated over the net.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Troy said. “When I go in there, it’s not for me, it’s for my teammates.”
“She was incredible,” Haunga interjected.
On the other end of the spectrum, Haunga was one of the players who got to score for the Warriors.
“I just told myself, ‘You have done this before, focus, breathe and get it in the back of the net,’” Haunga said.
As expected, the UNLV-bound senior came through, helping the Warriors win the shootout 5-4 to bring home BIIF gold.