Early tests for Wildcats
Their first touch needs work. So does their communication.
Those were some of Konawaena girls soccer coach Guy Miranda’s observations after watching the Wildcats play Makua Lani in a scrimmage on Tuesday.
Miranda’s players will have little time to improve on those areas of the game this week, and they must do so against a host of quality teams.
Konawaena will begin its nonconference season today at the three-day Castle-Leilehua Girls Soccer Tournament on Oahu before hosting its Wahine Wildcat Preseason Soccer Tournament from Nov. 23-25.
Combined, the tournaments feature the cream of the crop at last year’s Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, with both eight-team events guaranteeing all of its participants three matches.
Today, the Wildcats open with Division I state tournament third-place finisher Mililani, and if they get past the Trojans defending Division I champion Kamehameha-Oahu likely awaits in the semifinals.
When Konawaena returns to the Big Island, it will host a tournament that includes defending Division II state champion Mid-Pacific, 2012 Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II runner-up Kamehameha-Hawaii and Honokaa, last season’s BIIF Division II third-place team.
Miranda’s Wildcats have spent little time on the soccer field this season, and the Wildcats coach saw signs of what he’s experienced on a yearly basis from his team: a slow start.
It doesn’t thrill Miranda, but he can tolerate slow starts if he sees his team progressing much like it did last year, when the Wildcats were the BIIF Division I runners-up and made their first state tournament appearance since 2008.
Konawaena went 1-2 at the state tourney, beating OIA school Aiea for the first time.
“I felt it started slow, but they built up as the year went along,’’ Miranda said.
Konawaena graduated nine seniors from its 2011-12 team. The Wildcats have just two seniors this season, but they happen to be two of their top three goals-scorers from a season ago: midfielders Saxon Nagata (10 goals) and Ua Ruedy (nine).
Miranda will give both seniors opportunities to play forward. In fact, he’ll use several players at different positions this weekend on Oahu.
“We want to get everybody in and not be concerned with winning a preseason tournament,’’ Miranda said.
The sophomore trio of Kaulana Ruedy (seven goals), Shayli Nakamoto (five) and Melissa Gouveia give the team a wealth of speed at forward.
However, Miranda said the Wildcats’ strength may be the back line of juniors Jetahn McRight and Rayne Izumi-Baltero, sophomore Jashea Leleiwi and freshman Alyssa Nahale-Blanco.
The Wildcats feature youth at goalkeeper with sophomore Kililani Kunitomo and freshman Taiana Tolleson, but Miranda came away impressed with their performance against the Lions.
Miranda said his team must improve its ability to defend in the midfield, but he stressed communication the most, saying modern technology plays a role in decreasing verbal communication in general.
“I think I might have to ban (text messaging) for the entire season,’’ he said jokingly.
The quality competition the Wildcats will face over the next two weeks may reveal other areas of improvement.
Konawaena faces defending BIIF Division I champion Kealakehe on the road in a game tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 28.
“We’ll use these games to work out the bugs and hopefully get them ready by the beginning of the BIIF season,’’ Miranda said.
Konawaena and Kaiser will play in the third annual Guava Bowl at 6 p.m. Nov. 24.
The game will take place after the Wahine Wildcat Preseason Soccer Tournament’s semifinals and consolation semifinals at Konawaena’s Julian Yates Field.
The name of the event stems from the term guava, which Oahu residents used to describe people in Kalihi Valley. Both Miranda and Kaiser coach Adolph Samuels grew up in the Kalihi area, attending Farrington High.
Kaiser has won the previous two Guava Bowls.