By any measure, the Hawaii Prep boys soccer team’s two-year sojourn to Division I was a smashing success.
But with stalwarts such as Sihkea Jim and Jake Schneider no longer around, the time was right to move back down to D-II, second-year coach James Berry said.
”We still have D-I players, but we don’t have enough to compete,” Berry said. “Maybe on this island, but to go off-island to compete, we just don’t have the numbers.”
BIIF boys soccer coaches, almost to a man, spent the past four seasons gushing about how invaluable Jim, the 2019 co-BIIF Player of the year, was at center back. Schneider was a prolific goal-scorer and the 2018 player of the year. HPA lost 13 seniors in all from a team that won its fourth consecutive league title – two in D-II and two in D-I while winning three state titles – but Berry know’s nobody is going to feel sorry him.
In fact, he feels fortunate to be where he is and would expect nothing less than for the competition to be coming hard at HPA.
“I hope so,” he said. “Part of the thing we tell the boys is you come from a winning mentality, and winning school and winning culture. Look at your shirt. People are going to play harder against you, so you have to step up to better your own game.”
The cupboard is far from bare. All-BIIF selection Conor Hunt returns for his senior season, and Berry expects senior Zane Willman to make a seamless transition to starting goalkeeper.
As far as replacing Jim – Berry compared the task to trying to fill the void left by two players, not just one – HPA will turn to a pair of new faces, one a senior, Grayson Phillips, and the other a freshman, Noah Condon. Grayson is the son of school headmaster Patrick Phillips.
“Grayson is experienced in playing that role and we’re happy to have him,” Berry said, “and Noah is physically able to handle the position. We’re trying to work that combination.”
Senior Daniel Jose Vidal Gayoso may not be as dynamic as Schneider, but Berry said the boarder from Spain “has any eye for the goal, is a hustler, is technically sound and can shoot with both feet.”
He also expects big things from Conor Hunt’s younger brother, Mason, a sophomore midfielder, and all four freshman listed on the roster could play: Condon, Nathaniel Lawton, Jack-Ryan Jeremiah and Kanoa Blake, the BIIF cross-country champion.
“We’re hoping not to rely on a single player like Schneider and get other weapons involved,” Berry said.
One player who will be hard to miss on the pitch is 6-4 senior Ignatios Nesposountnii, who could see an larger role after playing as a reserve last season.
The move down to D-II reignites HPA’s rivalry with Kamehameha-Hawaii, which won two titles while Ka Makani were in D-I, and they are already set to knock heads at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the championship game of Ka Malani Soccer Classic. On Saturday, HPA beat Kalani 1-0 in penalty kicks, while the Warriors tripped Mililani 3-1. HPA is the two-time champion of the tournament.
Berry targeted Makua Lani as the BIIF D-II favorite, and the teams open the regular season with a match Wednesday in Kailua-Kona.
“We know so many of those kids and personal friends and coaches over there,” Berry said. “It is a fantastic game to coach and watch, but it is going to be probably our, we hope, our most competitive game of the year.”
Ka Makani Soccer Classic
HPA 8, Maui 1
Kamehameha-Hawaii 3, Mid-Pacific 2, PKs
Mililani 6, Makua Lani 0
Kalani 4, Kealakehe 1
HPA 1, Kalani 0, PKs
Kamehameha 3, Mililani 0
Kealakehe 5, Maui 3
Mid-Pacific 2, Makua Lani 1
Final: HPA vs. Kamehameha, 11:30 a.m.
Third: Mililani vs. Kalani, 11:30 a.m.
Fifth: Kealakehe vs. Mid-Pacific, 8 a.m.
Seventh: Makua Lani vs. Maui, 9 a.m.
Maui 3, HPA 2
Campbell 8, Kealakehe 1
Konawaena 4, King Kekaulike 3, PKs
Mid-Pacific 4, Kalani 1
Campbell 2, Konawaena 1, OT
Maui 1, Mid-Pacific 0
HPA 7, Kalani 0
King Kekaulike 11, Kealakehe 4
Final: Maui vs. Campbell, 9:45 a.m.
Third: Konawaena vs. Mid-Pacific, 9:45 a.m.
Fifth: HPA vs. King Kekaulike, 8 a.m.
Seventh: Kealakehe vs. Kalani, 10:45 a.m.