Cowabunga! Warriors make playoffs
KEAAU — Waiakea girls soccer coach JoBette NaBarro likes to shout out colorful terminology to signal the calls for her team’s set pieces.
Cowabunga. Turtle power. Just to name a few.
“You know me, I always got to make it fun,” NaBarro said.
Even if that fails, Cheylee Octavio had things covered in the excitement department Tuesday at Shipman Park in Keaau, ensuring that an uncharacteristically challenging Big Island Interscholastic Federation season for the Warriors will end in familiar fashion.
Octavio scored two goals and assisted on two others as the Warriors grabbed the final spot in the BIIF Division I playoffs with a 5-2 victory against the Cougars.
Waiakea’s program can usually write itself into the playoffs before the season begins, but with a young and depleted roster this year, NaBarro expected a bumpy road. She had even suggested that Waiakea should drop down to Division II in the preseason. That made this win a little more sweeter than usual.
“We made the playoffs, we made the playoffs,” she said. “We’ve grown a lot. We don’t have any superstars.”
Octavio fit that billing against Keaau, however. And the junior never had a doubt that Waiakea was headed anywhere but the postseason.
“I think we’ve progressed a lot given the circumstances,” said Octavio, who’s netted a team-best nine goals. “It was a team effort. We all worked really well together and stepped up as a team.”
Freshman Starcia DePonte scored twice, and sister Stacia DePonte, a senior, added another goal for Waiakea (5-6), which will head to either Konawaena or Kealakehe on Jan. 23 in the BIIF Division I semifinals.
The Cougars (3-7) also entered the match with designs on the fourth seed, but Octacio quickly set the tone for Waiakea when she dribbled into the penalty box and slotted home a shot from about 8 yards out in the sixth minute.
“Big-time,” Nabarro said of Octavio’s early impact. “She hustles, she listens. She gets what I need done.”
And she did so from multiple places on the field, playing both forward positions as well as in the midfield. She took nine of her team’s 21 shots, including a blast that rattled the crossbar from about 15 yards away midway through the first half.
Both teams had success sending long balls into their opponent’s end during the first 40 minutes.
Octavio chased down a throughball in the right corner in the 12th minute and sent a cross that Starcia DePonte deposited into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Keaau’s Avery Jarvis cut the lead to 2-1 in the 28th minute, running onto a Naia Blackford throughball and getting behind Waiakea goalkeeper Jordan Melchor. The Cougars’ Shani Cosma made it 3-2 just before the half when she scored on a perfectly placed free kick from beyond the penalty box.
But each time Keaau drew close, Octavio had the answer.
She set up Stacia DePonte in point-blank range for a goal in the 35th minute. Octavio gave Waiakea breathing room again in the second half, drawing a foul in the penalty box and then converting the penalty kick.
“I’d say both were equally pleasing,” Octavio said. “I get excited when my teammates score.”
Keaau took four shots in each half. While Keaau is the lone Division I school staying home from the playoffs, coach Billie Vieira was satisfied with her team’s progress.
“They’ve improved from the beginning of the year and have come a long way,” she said.
Hilo 7, Ka‘u 0: Senior Edwina DeGrood and sophomore Tiana Teanio each found the back of the net in Pahala and had a hand in the shutout as seven different Vikings scored.
Hilo (6-2-2), which led 2-0 at halftime, also got goals from Rose Nakamura, Serena Nasworthy, Lolly Higa, Taylor Matas and Mehana Sabado-Halpern.
Michelle Martinez also played in goal against the Trojans (1-9).
Kamehameha 10, Christian Liberty 1: Senior Kera Akiyama tallied three goals, giving her a team-high 16 for the season, and senior Tiffany Pacheco also had a hat trick for the Warriors, who moved to the top of the BIIF Division II standings.
Seniors Lehua McGuire and Cody Kualii, junior Tiana Iwata and freshman JC Kerr also scored for Kamehameha (8-2, 24 points), which sits one point ahead of Hawaii Prep (7-0-2).
In their final match of the regular season, the Warriors must travel to face BIIF Division I champion Kealakehe at 5 p.m. Saturday. Ka Makani will host the Waveriders at 2 p.m. today and Christian Liberty at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Kealani Bergfeld scored the lone goal for the Canefire (0-10).
Waiakea 2, Keaau 0: Hajime Hayano collected his team-high ninth goal of the season, and Dyson Sato scored his second goal in as many games as the Warriors (3-9) prevailed at Shipman Park.
Chris Wung blanked the Cougars (3-7-2) in goal.
Hilo 7, Ka‘u 0: The Vikings improved to 6-3-2 with their victory in Pahala while the Trojans dropped to 2-10. No further information was available at press time.
Christian Liberty 5, Kamehameha 0: Senior Louis Moylan had a role in all of the Canefire’s goals, scoring twice and adding three assists as Christian Liberty improved to 9-1-1.
Senior Keenan Freitas, junior Kekoa Mundo and sophomore Koa Caceras also scored for the Canefire, and senior Zach Wolf added an assist.
Moylan has scored 16 goals this season.
Senior Keanu Bergfeld blanked the Warriors (3-5-3) in goal.
West Hawaii Today’s Joe Ferraro contributed to this report.