It wasn’t the walk-off finish Hilo High’s Jordyn Pacheco had envisioned.
Instead of cheers there were tears earlier this year when Konawaena upset the Vikings in the BIIF Division I girls soccer championship, denying eight seniors an unprecedented fourth crown.
A few months later, Pacheco and her teammates scripted another finish.
Those in attendance at Hilo’s graduation ceremony two weeks ago may have noticed a theme. Of the 15 valedictorians who walked on to the stage to be honored, four were girls soccer starters, including Pacheco.
“For my speech we all had different topics,” she said. “Mine was dreams and inspirations, and the message that I tried to convey was that if you work hard and stay focused you can achieve anything.”
For Pacheco, the list of achievements now includes what was heretofore an elusive honor: Player of the Year, as chosen by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.
“I was surprised, because even though I knew that this was one of my better years, there is a lot of talented girls it could have gone to,” said Pacheco, who drew heavy consideration for the award in 2018 after leading Hilo in scoring.
“No, I didn’t have any extra motivation,” she said. “I just go out there everyday and work as hard as I can to make myself a better player.”
It can be easy to get lost in the Vikings’ loaded lineup, but the Northern Arizona-bound Pacheco never did as she flooded the flanks as a fleet-footed forward. Miya Clarke, the Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, always casts a shadow and led D-I with 19 goals in 2019— one more than Pacheco — and Kalamanamana Harman, another class valedictorian, scored nine goals and provided one of the strongest defensive presences in the BIIF.
Hilo coach Skee Saplan struggled to single out just one player, but he lauded Pacheco for her hard work, passion and ability to adapt to different situations.
“I like to think of it as “Who do I feel is the biggest threat when I play that team?”’ Saplan said. “That’s your POY.”
Clarke, Harman, and Hilo midfielder Hollie Saplan (team-high 14 assists in 2019) earn the distinction of becoming four-time all-BIIF players. Pacheco, Hilo fullback Caneel Corpuz, a junior, and Konawaena forward Nanea Wall are members for a third time, and Waiakea midfielder Jacelyn Cambra makes the list for the second time. The first-time honorees are Konawaena’s Jadyn Hanks — who scored the only goal in the BIIF final — and Caiya Hanks, Kealakehe’s Audrey Weir and Waiakea’s Kalena Kekaualua.
At goalkeeper, Konawaena’s Kyanah Blas had been overshadowed by Hilo’s acrobatic Saydee Bacdad the past two years, but Blas got the nod this time after holding strong in the BIIF title game, dealing the Vikings’ eight seniors just their third loss in league competition.
“We learned that we cannot take anything for granted and we cannot underestimate any opponent,” Pacheco said. “We came out flat and got outplayed. Konawaena was just the better team that day.”
By graduation day, much had been forgotten.
If Skee Saplan could put a high grade point average requirement in place to play for Hilo he probably would, so he watched with pride as honorable mention all-BIIF selections Bacdad and Haley Miyasato also made valedictorian speeches, while Hollie Saplan graduated magna cum laude and Clarke made cum laude.
“As Coach Skee says you are a student before you are an athlete,” Pacheco said, “and that is something we all took pretty seriously.”
Pacheco will resume the role of student-athlete at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, where she plans to study nursing and play for the Division I Lumberjacks of the Big Sky Conference on an academic and athletic scholarship.
A member of Surf Soccer Club Big Island, Pacheco had other college offers and made other trips, “but once I did my recruiting trip to (Northern Arizona) I fell in love with the school, the town, the coaching staff and I knew instantly this was the place for me.
“Ultimately it was the coaching staff, but after my visit I fell in love with everything about the school.”
Miya Clarke Hilo Forward
Jordyn Pacheco Hilo Forward
Nanea Wall Konawaena Forward
Jadyn Hanks Konawaena Forward
Caiya Hanks Konawaena Midfield
Hollie Saplan Hilo Midfield
*Jacelyn Cambra Waiakea Midfield
*Audrey Weir, Kealakehe Midfield
Caneel Corpuz Hilo Fullback
Kalena Kekaualua Waiakea Fullback
Kalamanamana Harman Hilo Fullback
Kynah Blas Konawaena Goalkeeper
Player of the Year
Jordyn Pacheco, Hilo
Coach of the Year
Kaua Wall, Konawaena
Hilo: Saydee Bacdad, Karla Ishii, Haley Miyasato, Nanea Rabang
Konawaena: Zane Garrigan, Naia Balancio, Tatia Denis-McRight, Melina Ramirez
Waiakea: Maiya Ann Serrao, Maluhia Kekuawela
Kealakehe: Riley Blaber, Anastasia Tuifua, Aaliyah Aukai-Takata
Keaau: Emily Turmelle, Kierstyn Yamamoto
*Tied in voting