Waiakea boys coach David Urakami has watched his team get overwhelmed by technically sound and superior Oahu soccer talent before, so he can recognize it when he sees it.
This was not one of those matches.
The Warriors possessed the game to compete but not the flame, he said, losing to Mililani 3-1 on Monday in an HHSAA Division I tournament first-round match that capped a renaissance season for the underclassmen-laden program at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium.
Playing at states for the first time since 2012, Urakami said the match came down to “intensity and effort” for the BIIF runner-up.
“I think we psyched ourselves out of the game,” he said. “The team that played against HPA (BIIF final) and Hilo (semifinal) was not the same team for us.
“I wish that they wanted it more. After this game, they understand they need to work hard.”
Just like in an overtime loss to Ka Makani on Feb. 3, Waiakea (6-5-2) had a lead, though this time it was an early one after sophomore John Grover put home a penalty kick about five minutes in after a Trojan was called for a hand ball in the penalty box.
The first half was played on mostly even terms, through Mililani (12-1-1) struck twice midway through the first 40 minutes, getting goals from Sean Donaldson and Dane Little about a minute apart to take a 2-1 lead to the break.
The Trojans, who will play top-seeded Punahou on Thursday in the quarterfinals on Oahu, carried the play in the second half, and Cy Kuboyama-Hayashi tacked on an insurance goal. Mililani’s only loss this season came to OIA champion Kalani.
“We weren’t totally in it,” Grover said. “We were missing something pregame, but I believed we tried our hardest.
“Our effort was there, even if the score didn’t show it.”
A BIIF team hasn’t won a winner’s bracket match in the D-I tournament since Kealakehe reached the state semifinals in 2013. HPA (12-0), the third seed, will try to end the drought against ILH runner-up Iolani in a quarterfinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Oahu’s Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex. The Red Raiders beat Moanalua 4-0 on Monday.
The Warriors, meanwhile, head to the postseason with their brightest outlook in some time and intent on improving. Many at Waiakea play club soccer with Rush.
“Hopefully, everyone gets better,” Grover said. “I want to get to the top as fast as possible and use this as a steppingstone.”
Key seniors such as Gabriel Frazier-Jenkins and Craig Okahara-Olsen will be missed, but the bulk of the team returns, including a bumper crop of freshmen, with the promise of another infusion of talent from the intermediate school level on the horizon.
“We got to play some good talent on Oahu and we know how to prepare for next year,” Grover said. “We’re going to set our goals higher for next year.
“We wanted to win for our seniors, of course, but we have a young core, and we can really go far.”