Jadyn Hanks and Kyanah Blas were soccer buddies growing up, playing together since age 12 on through to Konawaena High School.
They grew to become trail blazers on their respective sides of the field, and as luck would have it for the Wildcats their coming-out parties reached fever pitch on the same night.
Jan 23, 2019: In the BIIF Division I championship match against favored Hilo High, it was the fleet-footed Hanks who owned the flanks against a Vikings team that previously held the deed to that portion of the field.
“Honestly, I feel that my junior year was a way of saying that this is who I am, and I am ready to make moves,” Hanks said.
Practically no one scored on that Hilo team until Hanks did in the second half, and the Wildcats were impenetrable that night in part because Blas was the best goalkeeper on the field against the team that heretofore had the best keeper in the league, Hilo’s Saydee Bacdad.
“My junior year is when I finally stood next to (Saydee) and not behind her,” Blas said, “and finally created a name for myself.”
It would be a stretch to say their senior seasons were easy, but Konawaena faced far fewer obstacles in 2020 as it repeated as BIIF D-I champion and reached the HHSAA semifinals again. Before they leave for their Division I colleges – Blas to Hawaii, Hanks to Idaho – another thing they have in common can be revealed: They can share.
The coaches voted the league’s best goal-scorer and best goal-denier as co-BIIF Division I players of the year.
“I was shocked, surprised and very honored,” Blas said. “There is nobody I would feel more grateful to share this honor than with my fellow teammate and friend.”
“I was very overwhelmed with joy,” Hanks said. “It is great to share it with one of my good friends, and it shows that we have come a long way together.”
Leading a list of six Wildcats, Blas and Hanks make all-BIIF for a second time, though Blas likely could have been a four-time selection if she wasn’t behind Bacdad, her friend and former Hawaii Surf Club teammate, as a freshman and sophomore.
Hilo High’s Caneel Corpuz does reach that rarefied air, going 4 for 4 in all-BIIF selections during her career, the first season with Waiakea. Vikings coach Skee Saplan credited Corpuz with willing the near-.500 Vikings to the postseason.
Waiakea junior Jacelyn Cambra can join that club after being selected for the third time, Konawaena junior Caiya Hanks is a two-time selection, and the first-timers are Konawaena’s Jaymie Kunitomo, Avrie Salinas Goiveia and Zane Garrigan, Waiakea’s Malu Kekuawela and Maiya Serrao, Hilo’s Nanea Moke-Rabang and Kealakehe’s Riley Blaber. Konawaena’s Kaua Wall is the coach if the year.
Blas and Hanks bring the honor back to Kealakekua for the first time since goalkeeper Taiana Tolleson was a co-winner as a senior in 2016. When Tolleson signed with Vanderbilt, she was believed to be the first BIIF girls goalkeeper to earn a Division I scholarship. Blas became the third after Bacdad signed with Utah Valley in 2019.
“I looked up to her,” Blas said of Tolleson. “We hang out at practice when she comes home, and we are compared a lot since it was her shoes I had to fill as a freshman.”
Speed to burn
Hanks is a trail blazer because she possesses sprinter’s speed, qualifying for the finals in the 200 meters last season at the HHSAA track championships.
She took up soccer at age 8 and “it became my life,” she said.
Hanks called her first two seasons of high school a “feeling-out period,” but as an upperclassmen defenders took notice, and more and more Hanks heard “Watch No. 23, she’s got speed” or “Stay on her.”
“I have always been fast and that ability was a great skill that coaches automatically love about a player,” Hanks said. “There were several skills that I needed to master, mainly dribbling. The coordination of running and dribbling with my feet was a struggle in the beginning, but as I grew, I’ve gotten much better to maintain that skill.”
She put it all together as a senior, scoring 18 goals – six more than she did as a junior – which was third-best in the state. In the BIIF final against Hilo, the Wildcats trailed 1-0, but Hanks quickly turned the tide, running down a through ball sent by sister Caiya and scoring seconds into the second half, the first of her two goals in a 3-1 win.
Among the college coaches interested in Hanks was Idaho’s Jeremy Clevenger, who said “Jadyn should be an attacking threat the moment she steps foot on campus,” when he announced the signing in March.
Trying to find a match for her intensity and competitiveness, Hanks said her objective always was to play Division I college soccer, and she picked the Vandels over other D-I offers because of the chemistry she felt with Clevenger, a favorable visit to Moscow, Idaho, and because the Big Sky Institution met her academic requirements.
“I was delighted to help contribute to paving the way for future Hawaii girls soccer players and echoing the sentiment of my Wildcat sister, Taiana Tolleson,” Hanks said. “My Konawaena experience was very surreal. I’m blessed. The sky is the limit.”
Blas in back
Blas is a trail blazer because of where she’s going: Manoa
She’s the first BIIF player to sign with the Rainbow Wahine since Elizabeth Brauher, a 2005 Waiakea grad.
UH coach Michele “Bud” Nagamine calls Blas a “beast,” but Blas said she initially wasn’t sure she was mentally preprepared to play in D-I. She garnered many offers before being won over by Nagamine and assistant coach Mark Fournier.
“A lot had to do with (Coach Marc) and his determination to make me a great goalkeeper,” Blas said. “And there is only one Coach Bud – personality is amazing.”
She’s stayed sharp during the pandemic, lifting four times a week, doing field work three times a week and keeping in touch with her UH teammates.
The seeds of her work ethic were planted when she took up the game more than a decade ago in the American Youth Soccer Association, where her soccer-playing mom was a coach. Blas played in the field until former Konawaena coach Guy Miranda made the wise decision to move her to goalkeeper her freshman season.
She’s not going back.
“He saw something in me, believed in me and that’s what inspired me to be the goalkeeper I am today,” Blas said. “The adrenaline you get when a striker is running the sideline is such a rush and intense feeling, especially when you stop the ball from going in. We are the last line of defense and determine whether we win or lose.”
Maluhia Kekuawela Waiakea Fullback
Riley Blaber Kealakehe Fullback
Caneel Corpuz Hilo Fullback
Jaymie Kunitomo, Konawaena Fullback
Maiya Serrao, Waiakea Midfield
Jacelyn Cambra, Waiakea Midfield
Caiya Hanks, Konawaena Midfield
Avrie Salinas Goiveia, Konawaena Midfield
Jadyn Hanks, Konawaena Forward
Zane Garrigan, Konawaena Forward
Kyanah Blas, Konawaena Goalkeeper
Nanea Moke-Rabang, Hilo Utility
Hilo: Briana Jean Tanaka, Kaimana Macomber
Kealakehe: Aaliyah Takata, Anastasia Tuifua
Keaau: Makamai Kanani-Endo, Jaydence Meabela
Konawaena: Tatia Denis-McRight, Finesity Salinas Gouveia, Naia Balancio
Waiakea: Kaitlyn Beatty, Jadyn Clark, KK Hashizaki, Maya Atwal