HONOLULU — After Kamehameha’s shootout victory over Hawaii Preparatory Academy in the BIIF Division II title game, players on both teams left the pitch knowing there was a good chance they would meet one more time in the state tournament.
Fast-forward nearly two weeks later and it is happening, but this time a state championship is on the line.
“We know each other well and have had two really good battles,” said Hawaii Prep head coach Steve Perry. “The game will come down to executing. A lot of times it comes down — not a standout player — but to someone you don’t expect popping out and giving a good performance.”
Hawaii Prep is gunning for its fifth straight title after defeating Kapaa 3-0 in its HHSAA D-II semifinal match at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex on Friday. No Hawaii squad has won five consecutive state soccer championships, and only one team — Punahou from 1983 to 1986 — has won four in a row.
However, a fifth straight title is not something Hawaii Prep is really focused on.
“We have been saying all year that this team has not won anything yet. This is a different team from the previous years,” Perry said. “It will be cool for the school if it happens, but that is something to comment on afterward if it happens.”
On the other side of the bracket, Kamehameha is looking for its first state title since 2008. The Warriors took down Kauai 2-0 to complete an all neighbor-island semifinals, but the win came after a delay which pushed the game back four hours and changed the location from Waipio to Waipahu High School.
Both Hawaii Prep (14-2-0) and Kamehameha (12-4-0) have put up plenty of offense in the state tourney. That was not the case when the two teams met on a fog-filled, rained-soaked field in Kealakekua in the BIIF title tilt. That game, played at Konawaena High’s Julian Yates Field, remained a scoreless tie until the Warriors managed to pull out a 5-4 penalty kick victory.
“The fields are 200 percent better here so it is not surprising both teams are able to execute better,” Perry said. “We are seeing good grass and both teams are able to use their strengths.”
Hawaii Prep’s offense the last two state games has been led by Emi Higgins and Isabella Police. Police has been an assist machine, picking up two against Kapaa in the first seven minutes on Friday.
Both goals played out eerily similar. Police worked her way down the right flank and tracked the ball down in the corner. From there, she used her speed to work around her defender, sending a cross into the box for a couple of easy tap-ins. Higgins picked up the first goal, and Teah Van Bergen scored on a header for the second goal.
Only a freshman, Police’s play this season — especially during the playoffs — has been a welcomed addition for Ka Makani.
“With some people, like Emi, we know what we are getting. Then there are others, like Isabella, who step up and we see the flashes of what they can do,” Perry said. “She makes us more dynamic. She is very athletic and has great foot-skills and speed.
Higgins continued her offensive onslaught with Hawaii Prep’s third goal of the game, which came at the 33-minute mark. She scored off a penalty kick after being fouled in the box on what most likely would have been a sure goal.
Defensively, Hawaii Prep was able to shut down a very good offensive Kapaa (11-2-1) team that was led by April Barnes and Brianna Binder, a duo that has combined for nearly 50 goals this season. The task of stopping the pair came down to Ka Makani’s Jenna Perry and Jordan Zarate in the midfield.
“They did a good job of knowing where those girls were on the field at all times,” Perry said. “Watching Jenna and Jordan in the midfield was fun today. They rotated and covered each other well, and had a great 2-on-2 battle.”
Kamehameha’s offensive was unbelievably productive in the team’s first state tourney game, a 10-0 demolishing of Leilehua. Against Kauai (11-3-1) the Warriors took a 1-0 lead by the half off a goal by Hevani Haunga. Faith Aurello added an insurance goal at the eight-minute mark in the second half.
As game time approaches between the two Big Island squads, it would been easy to imagine Hawaii Prep champing at the bit for a chance to gain a little revenge on their BIIF foe, which ended the program’s streak of eight straight D-II league titles. However, that is not the case.
“The girls really did not care who they played in the state championship,” Perry said. “This team stays pretty even-keeled and focused. They are just a fun group of girls having a good time right now.”