KEAAU – It took some time and a friendly reminder from her coach, but Hilo’s Kiana Corpuz finally remembered Skee Saplan’s early season message at halftime of a scoreless BIIF girls Division I semifinal.
“He told me to go be a leader,” Corpuz said, “but it was a very slow (process), so he told me again.”
That message received, it took little time for the senior to strike.
Corpuz quickly gave the Vikings the lead against Waiakea, and with the way Hilo shuts down opponents, insurance goals by Jordyn Pacheco and Paige Hiraki seemed almost like overkill. The Vikings beat the Warriors 3-0 at Paiea Stadium and will search for a third consecutive title Saturday night against Konawaena in Kealakekua.
“My coach motivated me, and I was like, “OK, I need to score,” said Corpuz, who played her first three seasons of high school soccer at Waiakea.
Enough talk about seeding.
In the semifinals, the No. 2 Vikings (10-1-1) were ladies of action and motivated by being seeded behind the Wildcats (10-2-1) – who beat Kealakehe 4-0 on Tuesday – despite having the better record in a better tier.
“Hilo plays like a No. 1 seed,” Waiakea volunteer coach Gene Okamura said after the Warriors finished 6-6 and missed states for the first time since 2014.
No. 1 or No. 2 is all moot now.
Konawaena and Hilo, who each have berths in the HHSAA state tournament, have combined to win 11 of the past 12 BIIF titles, and win by the Vikings in the final would give them a second threepeat to match the Wildcats during that span.
“We try not to play with too much emotion, ” said Saplan, who had been openly disappointed by the seeding process, “but we really wanted to have a chance to play Konawaena and extend the season for our seniors.”
Hilo and Konawaena tied 1-1 during the regular season Dec. 22 at Hilo Bayfront, and the Wildcats’ goal – via a Nalani Wall penalty kick – is notable because it’s the last one Hilo has allowed.
Junior goalkeeper Saydee Bacdad and the Vikings have allowed four goals this season, with three coming in opener at HPA.
“Our defensive set, with Karla Ishii, Caneel Corpuz, Saydee and the different people who play outside back for us, is really strong,” Saplan said. “They play well together and they’re smart.”
Bacdad has proven fully capable of making acrobatic saves in her career, but her 11th shutout of the season followed a familiar pattern in that she wasn’t all that busy beyond routine cleanups in her area.
“That’s the thing about this season,” Saplan said, “we’ve never seen Saydee shine.
“Hopefully, at Konawaena and states she should get more action.”
Hilo had two shots ricochet off crossbars during the first half and it came on strong after the break. Kiana Corpuz scored fewer than two minutes in from 25 yards out after collecting a drop pass from Alyeemomi Amaral.
Pacheco came in on breakaway and scored from 15 yards away near the midway point of the half in the 62nd minute, and the match seemed destined for a 2-0 final when Pacheco ran down the left side and fed Hiraki, who tacked on another goal with three seconds remaining.
Not that any of the junior-laded Vikings are taking the championship opportunity for granted, but it’s extra special for Kiana Corpuz. She was a contributor the past three seasons as Waiakea reached three finals only to fall a goal short each time.
“I really wanted this and to lose would have been embarrassing,” she said. “I just got to this school.”
The Warriors learned another lesson in perseverance amid changes in leadership.
First-year coach Sage Van Kralingen was suspended early in the season, and Okamura – the interim UH-Hilo soccer director – was summoned to help take over just days before the Warriors’ third match of the season, a 1-0 loss to Konawaena.
“For what they’ve been through and to go out with this energy level, we couldn’t ask for anything else,” Okamura said. “They left everything on the field for sure.”