The storm has passed, and the grass at Hilo Bayfront soccer fields has been manicured and fertilized and is open for business.
There was just one “ALERT!” posted Thursday before the Volcano International Soccer Tournament was set to get into full swing.
This is an AYSO kids zone, the sign said: Those who, among other things, yell in anger will be asked to leave.
“The whole idea is a safe-haven, kids environment,” tournament director Marc Butz said.
The annual tournament, which marks the end of the Hilo American Youth Soccer Organization season, has featured bigger fields, but it’s spreading its roots nevertheless and features two mainland teams. Valencia (Calif.) will compete in the girls 19U field, and a team from East Los Angeles enters the girls 14U field.
“That’s the next level for us,” Butz said.
In the future, he’d like the tournament to be able to live up to the international part of its name, saying, “The next level beyond that would be to get a team from Japan.”
It was a challenge this time around to get the usual commitments from Oahu clubs, largely because just last week Honolulu hosted the AYSO’s National Games. Butz figured the tournament would prove either boom or bust for the Volcano field, and in some cases it’s been the latter. Teams from Oahu stayed home, while mainland teams went home.
“What we found out real quick,” Butz said, “is that teams were spending all their money there. We just had to temper things down a little bit.”
Still, he’s upbeat about the future and as it is the tournament stands on solid ground with 40 teams – that’s down 14 from last season’s robust field, which was double from two years previous – entered in seven divisions: girls and boys for U19, U14 and U10, and a U12 boys field.
The tournament kicked off Thursday with a skills competition – the focus was the group, not the individual – and one match. In boys 19U, KB (Kamehameha-Hawaii) beat Waiakea 4-2.
On Friday, play begins at 9 a.m., and the U19 action gets going at 9:50 a.m. The championships are Sunday.
“This is one more chance for the team you’ve been playing with all year long to play again,” Butz said.
In the oldest division, there is even more of a feeling of finality. Four of the five teams in 19U boys are from the Big Island. Kona Rage, Honokaa Dragons and West Oahu are the other three, while Chicas, Honokaa and West Oahu join Valencia on the girls side.
As the usual, club teams such as Big Island’s Rush, Surf Soccer and Na Hoa are well represented in the tournament.
But this being a kids zone and all, one of the core AYSO tenants still holds true: everyone plays.