Coach Skee Saplan unleashed his soccer charges on the Big Island three years ago, and they’ve never failed to deliver within these borders since.
Oh, sure, there have been a few hiccups, but they won a tight BIIF D-I final as freshmen, survived a shootout as sophomores, and as juniors the only mystery was what seed would they be when they triumphed.
“Last go-around for a bunch of seniors,” Saplan said. “A year stronger, a year faster.”
Considering the state of the Great Eight, that’s a scary thought.
“Just to see them grow, it’s been fun,” said Saplan, who’s been working with many of his seniors since before they reached high school. “I’m confident where they are as people going out in the world.”
Miya Clarke is the powerhouse and two-time player of year, netting 12 goals and seven assists in 2017-18, though Jordyn Pacheco was the team’s leading scorer with 15 goals. While the Vikings can dazzle with speed up top, it’s the back end that’s a team strength.
Hilo allowed four goals – FOUR – in league competition last season, while scoring 45.
“Just trying not let the other team score, I love it,” said Kalamanamana Harman, who plays a defensive midfield. “I love defense, I like it more than offense.”
She still found time to score five times last season.
“Coach Skee has been a big part of my life and I played with most of these girls in club soccer,” Harman said. “I get a little emotional. I’m not going to be able to play with these girls next year.”
The backbone of the team is goalkeeper Saydee Bacdad, who was a part of 12 shutouts last season. Thanks to fullbacks such as Karla Ishii and Glory Medeiros, who’s working her way back from a knee injury, Bacdad, it seems, often has enough time to write a book during some matches.
On Wednesday, Bacdad wrote her name ona letter of intent to play at Division I Utah Valley State. Also signing were Pacheco (Northern Arizona) and Hollie Saplan at UH-Hilo.
“I feel more comfortable staying at home,” Saplan said. “I can focus more.
“I’m excited but I’m getting sad because this is my last year. I feel like this is our strongest team, a lot of upperclassmen.
“Let’s make this year the best one.”
Saplan led the team with 11 assists to go along with four goals and holds down a spot in the midfield, as does Haley Miyasato, a tenacious competitor and hard-worker who’s coming off of a three-goal campaign.
That’s eight key pieces with only one more point to prove, in Skee Saplan’s eyes.
“It’s always been our dream since the beginning to try and do well as we can at states,” Saplan said. “We seem do be doing better, but I don’t want to be done and not get there.”
Hilo has lost it first-round game at states the past three season, each times to the eventual champ, then rebounded each time to win a consolation match.
It’s not that the Vikings see the BIIF season as a foregone conclusion – “We never take anything for granted, ” Hollie Saplan said – it’s just that a fourth consecutive league title is merely the first goal on the list.
As usual, the Vikings will host the Big Island Candies Hilo Bay Classic, Friday through Sunday, but in a departure from past years, Hilo will play at Kamehameha-Kapalama’s tournament on Oahu later in the month to try to get in a sneak preview of states. The Warriors edged the Vikings 2-1 in a 2018 HHSAA consolation match after Hilo lost to Iolani in the first round.
“Hopefully, that gets us ready,” Hollie Saplan said.
The senior’s cast a large shadow, but they won’t take all the spotlight this season.
Junior Caneel Corpuz is one of the best defensive players on the island, junior Paige Hiraki and sophomore Samantha Chung can contribute at fullback or in the midfield and junior Nanea Moke-Rabang posted eight points last season.
In addition, Skee Saplan said a group of eight freshmen not only will help bridge the gap to next season, but also keep everyone on their toes.
“During tryouts they pushed us hard,” Harman said, “because we’re seniors and we want to the best we can be.”
The best on all the islands, if Skee Saplan has his way.
“Winning states, of course, would make it that much better,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it’s been a good four years.”
Hilo Bay Classic
Girls teams: Hilo, Hawaii Prep, Honokaa, Kauai A, Kauai B, Keaau, Konawaena, Waiakea
Boys: Hawaii Prep, Hilo, Honokaa, Kamehameha, Konawaena, Keaau, Kauai, Makua Lani
At Paiea Stadium
At Paiea Stadium
Boys, Kamehameha vs. Kauai, 4 p.m.
Girls, Hilo vs. Kauai A, 6 p.m.
At Keaau High
Girls, Keaau vs. Kauai B, 4 p.m.
Boys, Keaau vs. Hilo, 6 p.m.
At Hilo Bayfront
Girls, Kauai A vs. HPA. 10 a.m.
Boys, Kauai vs. HPA. noon
Girls, Hilo vs. Waiakea, 3 p.m.
At Amauulu Field
Girls, Waiakea vs. Keaau, 8 a.m.
Girls, Kauai B vs. Honokaa, 10 a.m.
Boys, Honokaa vs. Keaau, 1:30 p.m.
Girls, Kona vs. Honokaa, 3:30 p.m.
At Paiea Stadium
Boys, Kamehameha vs. Makua Lani, 10 a.m.
Boys, Hilo vs. Konawaena, noon
Boys, Makua Lani va. Konawaena, 4 p.m.
Boys, Kamehameha vs. Honokaa, 6 p.m.
A Hilo Bayfront
Boys, Kauai vs. Hilo, 9 a.m.
Boys, Konawaena vs. Honokaa, 11 a.m.
Girls, Hilo vs. Honokaa, 1 p.m.
Boys, Hilo vs. Honokaa, 3:30 p.m.
At Amauulu Field
Girls, Konawaena vs. Kauai A, 9 a.m.