Hawaii Preparatory Academy chipped the ball into the penalty box — perhaps too far ahead — but Nanea Tavares flashed and coach Steve Perry remembers thinking if anyone could beat the Mid-Pacific goalkeeper to the ball it was Tavares.
The chase was on, and speed is one of Tavares’ specialties.
Another is versatility, which is why she spent her junior and senior seasons operating mostly on the wings, which meant less scoring and more facilitating.
“It’s about winning,” Tavares said. “As long as the ball goes in, that’s what counts.”
After the chase was over, Tavares was front and center again, flicking a header into the net in overtime of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championship match. A golden goal for the eventual golden girl of Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II in 2014.
After capping her career with a fourth BIIF title and Ka Makani’s first state crown, Tavares also took home BIIF Player of the Year.
“I was really surprised,” Tavares said of the coaches’ vote. “I thought Gabbie Ewing would get it.”
Perry probably couldn’t have drawn up the postseason awards better if he had orchestrated them himself. While Tavares earned the BIIF honor, it was Ewing who earned state tournament Most Outstanding Player.
“They were both great players so it was great they both got recognized,” he said. “They were really flexible throughout the season.”
Tavares was a prolific scoring striker for Ka Makani her freshman and sophomore seasons, but Ka Makani had a full complement of forwards, what it really needed was someone to work the flanks at outside midfielder.
Tavares didn’t just have a new home, but somewhere she could take advantage of her speed and roam free to set up teammates with crisp crosses. All the while, she continued to be one of her team’s leading scorers.
“She’s a threat wherever she gets the ball because she’s so dangerous,” Perry said. “She’s so athletic, she likes to take on defenders and work the corners and really grew into the position.
“She had a very unselfish year. She came in before the season and basically told me she knew she could do better.”
Not surprisingly, five-time champion HPA dominated the All-BIIF voting, gobbling up eight of the 12 selections. Tavares was joined by forward Bri Vallente, midfielders Ewing and Erin Evans, defenders Dani Granger, Kristiana Van Pernis and Brittani Boora and goalkeeper Morgan Monahan. Runner-up Kamehameha placed three players on the team, forward Harper Hottendorf, midfielder Tiana Iwata and fullback Meagan Kualii, while striker Allie Shiraki represented Honokaa.
Tavares, 17, first started playing soccer when she was 4, and it’s been her primary sport ever since.
“I tried swimming and I made varsity volleyball, but I’m best with my feet,” said the daughter of Ipo and Walter Tavares.
Intent on playing Division I soccer in college, Tavares turned down a handful of Division II scholarship offers and accepted a two-year full ride at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., just outside Seattle.
Two of her future teammates will be Hottendorf and Hilo’s Taylor Matas, and the three are set to be roommates.
Tavares was drawn to the school because of its track record of producing players who earn offers to four-year schools.
“I’ve done a lot of research, and the coaches definitely help their players a lot,” Tavares said. “They like my speed and how I connect crosses.”
She’d also like to work on the technical aspects of the game and take more time before deciding on a major.
“Then I’ll go someplace even better,” she said.
Perry remembers the first time he met Tavares as an eighth-grader in a Hawaii Island Soccer Association game in Waimea.
“She’s had a wonderful four years,” he said. “It went by quick.”