KAILUA-KONA — For the majority of the second half, it seemed like the soccer gods wanted Waiakea to sweat a little more than head coach David Urakami and his young Warrior squad would have preferred on Tuesday afternoon against Makua Lani.
With the Lions frantically clawing at Waiakea’s 1-0 lead, the Warriors had a penalty kick and subsequent point-blank opportunity blocked by Makua Lani keeper Dominic Perrino.
Shortly after, Waiakea’s next try at an insurance goal doinked off the post, and another laser from John Grover went into the side of the net.
On the other side of the field, Warrior goalkeeper Isaac Sumera and his defense did all they could from keeping the hard-charging Lions from getting the equalizer, turning away some close calls.
Persistence would pay off, however, as Kai Biegler broke through for the Warriors with time waning away in the second half, helping Waiakea to a 2-0 victory at Old Kona Airport Park.
“Lucky,” Urakami said, describing his feelings about the game after picking up the win. “Makua Lani is a tough team. Their keeper played great and their strategy and fundamentals were solid.”
Freshman Aiden Santos netted the opening goal for Waiakea (7-1-1) and is part of the young core — which features only two seniors — that is fueling title aspirations.
“Watch out for us,” Santos said with a smile. “We are a bunch of exuberant players with a lot of potential. We feel like we can win a BIIF and even state title.”
That confidence does not come without cause. The win was the sixth in a row for Waiakea. The team’s only loss is a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Hawaii Prep, the defending Division I sate champs that edged the Warriors in the BIIF title game last season in OT.
After hosting Konawaena this weekend, Waiakea will finish off the season with a string of Division I foes, including a rematch against Ka Makani in the final game.
“We want to finish off the season strong,” Urakami said. “We are looking forward to getting another chance to play HPA.”
On the other side, Makua Lani (8-4) dropped its third in a row and fourth in its last five after starting the season 6-0. Albeit, those losses all came to Division I foes. The Lions have already locked up one of the top two seeds in Division II and are battling Kamehameha-Hawaii for the top spot.
The Lions are in a bounce-back spot next time up against winless Ka‘u on Monday.
Konawaena 1, Kohala 0: The Wildcats (3-7) scored on a penalty kick to defeat the Cowboys (3-6) in Kapaau, meaning Konawaena, Kohala and Honokaa all have nine points in third place in Division II.
Waiakea 4, Makua Lani 0: Maiya Serrao, Kaela Hatakenaka and Xailynn Lymon-Moke each scored a goal at Old Kona Airport Park, and goalkeeper Tiani Kow helped the Warriors notch their fifth consecutive victory, all by shutout.
Waiakea (7-3, 21 points) moved three points behind second-place Konawaena (8-2) in Division I as the teams jockey for home-field advantage in the playoff semifinals. The Warriors host the Wildcats at 2 p.m. Saturday, and both teams have matches against first-place Hilo during the final week of the regular season.
Konawaena won the first meeting 3-1 on Dec. 1 in Kealakekua, but Waiakea has allowed only two goals in their past eight matches (1-0 losses to Hilo and Hawaii Prep).
Winless in their past four matches, the Lions (4-6-1) are likely headed to their usual Division II playoff destination: a semifinal at Kamehameha.