Celebration time: UHH women stun Point Loma to bolster playoff hopes

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo forward Daelenn Tokunaga did it again Wednesday, scoring in a 1-0 overtime victory against Point Loma.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The headiest play for UH-Hilo forward Nanea Wall – she's locked up here with Point Loma Courtney Jo Seman – came during overtime Wednesday as she made the game-winning play happen.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo midfielder Alyssa Padron dribbles the ball during Wednesday's match against Point Loma.

Coach Gene Okamura has been with UH-Hilo soccer since 2013 and had never been part of such a celebration – no one at the school has.

Okamura was at the top of Wednesday’s human pile – one in which he said he was playfully “pushing girls around” – while Daelenn Tokunaga wound up toward the bottom. Neither Tokunaga nor Jodi Lillie said they had partied this hard on the pitch since their title-winning days in high school on Oahu.

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This was not a championship celebration, but hold that thought, because anything is possible now that the Pacific West Conference runs through Hilo.

Tokunaga’s golden goal in overtime sent the Vulcans dashing on to their campus baseball field to bask in the glow of a 1-0 victory against PacWest powerhouse Point Loma, which had its 34-match conference unbeaten streak come to the end.

“No doubts,” Okamura said. “This team we have is a great group. Just the pure desire we played with was fantastic.”

UHH (10-3, 7-1 PacWest) tied the Sea Lions (11-1-1, 7-1) atop the conference and, more importantly, they earned win-and-in postseason status. If the Vulcans win their final two matches against Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade, both at home, they’ll earn the program’s first trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs.

“We deserve this win and we had to take it,” Tokunaga said of her mindset at the end of regulation.

The standout striker had one near miss in the second half, later drew a yellow card, and appeared frustrated as the match went to overtime. Okamura met her at midfield and walked with her back to the bench .

“I told her, “We need you, so be smart,”’ Okamura said.

Nanea Wall made the winning play happen in the 97th minute, hustling to chase down a ball and winning a one-on-one battle to drop it back for Tokunaga to bury into the net.

“Literally, a perfect ball, and all I had to do was finish it,” Tokunaga said.

She does that a lot.

Tokunaga’s 12 goals are five more than the next closest goal-scorer in the conference.

Point Loma didn’t get its first shot on goal until the second half. UHH goalkeeper Viviana Poli made three saves in her fifth shutout. Perhaps her best stop came in the 78th minute when stonewalled Hailey Clifford.

The Vuls have allowed only six goals all season, and Lillie has a played a big hand in the defensive effort.

That’s nothing new for the two-time all-Pac West fullback, though the first-place excitement is.

“I think that we proved that we are at the top of the league,” Lillie said. “I’m just glad that we are able to really compete this year, and it feels really nice to have this winning streak.”

And after helping UHH rise to the top, she ended up on the bottom of the celebratory pile.

“Not that good because my back hurts, and now it will hurt a little more,” she said. “But it was worth it.”

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In the men’s match, Point Loma got a first-half goal from Parker Scalzo, his eighth, and won 1-0.

According to a UHH release, the Vulcans (4-7-1, 2-5-1) had opportunities to get the equalizer in the last four minutes of regulation, but Caesar Hjerten and Luca Lippert each had shots that just missed the net.

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