All-BIIF soccer: With deep drive for game, Hilo’s Clarke collects second D-I Player of Year

  • JARED FUJISAKI photo
    Hilo junior Miya Clarke flashed this winning smile 12 times this year. It's how many games the Vikings won and how many goals she scored en route to being named BIIF Division I Player of the Year.

Soccer in the morning, soccer in the afternoon, soccer at night.

It can be proven now that Hilo High junior Miya Clarke does take a break from the game to sleep, but not necessarily for long periods of time.

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After she and the Vikings put on another show on the Big Island, appropriately enough Clarke was in Las Vegas working on her craft this week at a soccer showcase when she learned she was a repeat honoree as BIIF Division I Player of the Year, as selected by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.

“It’s great and it’s humbling,” Clarke said, fresh off a nap in between matches. “I put in a lot of work, not only for me but for my team.

“I have to thank my coaches, family and teammates.”

Clarke plays with Skee Saplan’s Chicas’ in the offseason, though there is really is no such word in Clarke’s soccer vernacular nor calender.

Does she have any other hobbies?

“Just soccer,” she said. “I love the game, especially when I have a great coach and the support of everyone.”

It’s been that way for Clarke ever since she was introduced to the game at age 5 by her father. Michael Clarke can take credit not only for stoking her daughter’s passion for soccer but also for the foot speed that makes her such a dangerous striker.

“My grandfather says my dad was fast when he played soccer,” Clarke said, “but I think I’m faster.”

She increased her goal production to 12 in 2017-2018 and once again registered seven assists, and both were second on a junior-laden Hilo team, coached by Saplan, that earned its third consecutive BIIF championship, beating Konawaena 4-0 in the final.

Junior Jordyn Pacheco, Clarke’s partner in crime on the wing, led the Vikings with 15 goals, making the Player of the Year selection a bit trickier than last season.

In addition, junior goalkeeper Saydee Bacdad collected 12 shutouts in 16 matches and fullbacks Kalamanamana Harman, a junior, and Caneel Corpuz, a sophomore, also spearheaded a defense that allowed only four goals in BIIF competition.

In all, Hilo had seven first-team selections, with junior Hollie Saplan (four goals, 11 assists) and senior Kiana Corpuz (eight goals, seven assists) making the list at midfield.

“It’s tough,” Skee Saplan said. “If there was a defensive player of the year, we probably would get that, too.”

“Jordyn really stepped up her game and scored a lot more,” he said. “Don’t take anything away from her hard work, but Miya draws a lot of (opponent’s) attention, and that helps everyone else.

“It’s all of her contributions, the scoring, assists that overall make her the Player of the Year.”

The Vikings essentially suffered two hiccups during the season.

The first one was a season-opening 3-1 loss at Hawaii Prep that marked just the second BIIF setback sustained by Clarke and her class of 2019 teammates.

“We didn’t put our heads down, we came to practice and got to work and got it done,” said Clarke, discussing one of her most memorable moments of her season.

Hilo avenged the loss to Ka Makani with a 3-0 victory at Hilo Bayfront in which Clarke scored twice. She added two more goals in the BIIF final and tacked on a pair at the HHSAA tournament.

But therein lies the second hiccup: states was a harder pill to swallow.

The Vikings put much of their season-long focus into postseason success on Oahu. For the third consecutive season, the Vikings lost to the eventual state champion in the quarterfinals (4-1 to Iolani), before beating Kamehameha-Maui 3-0 and losing to Kamehameha-Kapalama 3-1 in the fifth place match.

“In our mind, we thought we could win (states) this year,” Clarke said. “We weren’t focusing on BIIFs, we want to win at states.”

If soccer, all-day and every day, ever becomes stale for Clarke – and it hasn’t yet – state aspirations along with hopes of playing at the next level will drive her.

It’s one of the reasons she, along with her teammates, likes to run the hill during practices at Amauulu Field to try and improve her speed and endurance.

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Clarke’s next task is to become better touching the ball with her left foot, and since Saplan knows Clarke so well, he figures she won’t rest until she’s equally comfortable using both feet.

“She recognizes what she needs to improve on and that she needs to continue to work,” Saplan said. “She knows she not a complete player and wants to get better.”