Two Big Island teams coming off the most memorable seasons in their respective programs’ history could meet on Saturday in one of Hawaii’s most competitive preseason soccer tournaments.
The Ka Makani Soccer Classic, which features boys and girls eight-team brackets, begins today and runs through Sunday at Hawaii Prep.
Ka Makani’s girls soccer team, the three-time defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II champion, will take on Lahainaluna of the Maui Interscholastic League at noon in the first girls match of the tourney. On the same side of the bracket, defending BIIF Division I champion Kealakehe will play Kauai Interscholastic Federation power and Division II state semifinalist Kapaa at 1:45 p.m., with the winners of both matches advancing to a semifinal match scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Saturday.
At last year’s tournament, host HPA won the girls title, beating then defending Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state champion Mid-Pacific 1-0 in double overtime in the final. Two months later, HPA became just the second BIIF team to make the state final but suffered a 1-0 loss to the Owls to finish 15-2.
Ka Makani returns the BIIF’s third- and fourth-leading scorers from last season in junior forward Nanea Tavares (19 goals) and sophomore Bri Vallente (17 goals).
Senior Emily Evans (six goals), a strong distributor in the midfield, and Gabbie Ewing (nine goals), a sophomore who can play several different positions, also return. In last year’s Ka Makani Soccer Classic final, Ewing scored the game-winning goal.
Kealakehe also experienced a breakthrough last season, winning its first girls BIIF soccer title in school history after falling short in the Division I final in five previous appearances.
Senior forward Kari Van Mols, who has scored 39 goals in her high school career, leads the Waveriders, who went undefeated in BIIF play last season before going 1-2 in the state tournament.
On the opposite side of the girls bracket, senior forward Rose Nakamura (37 career goals) leads a Hilo team that will face defending KIF champion and Division II state semifinalist Kauai at 1:45 p.m. today.
Like Ka Makani’s girls, the Kealakehe boys will return to defend their tournament title.
The Division I Waveriders boast several key contributors from a team that comes off its fifth BIIF soccer title in school history, including prolific junior striker Keoni Yates (13 goals last season), physical senior forward/midfielder Avery Hardie-Jordan (seven goals), fleet-footed forward Kapono Berard (six goals) and steady senior defender Connor Keale (four goals).
Kealakehe, which draws KIF school Waimea at 3:30 p.m. today in the first round, will play in a tournament featuring a handful of the state’s better Division II teams.
Honokaa, which plays KIF champion Kapaa at 3:30 p.m. today in a rematch of last year’s state final, comes off its second consecutive state championship. However, the Dragons graduated a quartet of players — forward Dylan Shiraki, midfielders Chayce Moniz and Robert Connors, and defender Alden Aguirre — that formed the engine of that team.
The trio of Shiraki, Connors and Moniz combined to score 38 of the team’s 79 goals last season for a Dragons squad that dominated time of possession.
Honokaa does return two seniors who produced when it mattered most: after the regular season.
Senior midfielder Justin Warren tallied six of his 13 goals during the postseason, and senior forward Clayton Robinson scored three of his seven goals in the playoffs.
In other first-round games today, host HPA faces Oahu Interscholastic Association school Roosevelt at 3:30 p.m., while Konawaena takes on Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Mid-Pacific at noon.
The BIIF’s second-leading scorer from last season, senior Martynas Golubovskis (19 goals), leads Ka Makani, while junior John Replogle (12 goals) powers the Wildcats.