KEAAU — Kamehameha sophomore Kekai Wong Yuen sees a direct correlation. The Warriors have never been closer off the field, and as a result they’ve started to connect all the better on it.
How close-knit are the Warriors?
Judging by their ability to combine passes Tuesday, they’re a pretty tight group.
JC Kerr netted a hat trick and Kamehameha dominated its annual meeting with Honokaa in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II girls soccer semifinals for a 5-1 victory under a steady rain at Paiea Field.
“We’ve come a pretty long way, and I actually think we’re united this year,” Wong Yuen, who scored a goal, said after Kamehameha won it sixth straight match. “We’ve been working really hard to earn it. We’re a lot closer than we have actually ever been.”
After clinching their eighth consecutive trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, the Warriors (8-3-1) will return to their home field at 5 p.m. Saturday for the BIIF finals. East-Pac and Hawaii Preparatory Academy will play at 4 p.m. today in Waimea to determine the other finalist. Their Tuesday semifinal was postponed by inclement weather.
The conditions couldn’t have been much better in Keaau, but the Warriors took advantage of their turf field to run circles around the Dragons.
Junior Sachi Iwata scored off a direct kick in the first half and added an assist, and senior Harper Hottendorf registered two assists for Kamehameha, which put on a possession clinic, firing 32 shots. When Tiana Iwata wasn’t taking corner kicks on the left side of the field, her sister Sachi was hammering them on the right side.
“We’ve been trying to possess the ball as much as we can and attack as much we can,” Warriors coach Sonya Ah Chong said. “I think the girls are more confident, and we changed our lineup and we’re more comfortable with each other.”
One of the changes came when Kerr returned after injuring her ankle earlier in the season.
“JC has progressively gotten better and better,” Ah Chong said. “She’s really working to give us a good point up (top). She’s got good touch on the ball and is a smart player.”
The striker scored in the second minute after receiving a pass from Hottendorf, and the Warriors were already ahead 4-0 in the 26th minute after Kerr pounced on a rebound and put a ball past goalkeeper Hailey Paglinawan. Kerr had her hat trick by the 43rd minute, off a cross from Sachi Iwata, then Hottendorf almost set Kerr up for her fourth goal, but Kerr chipped it over the crossbar in the 61st minute and exited the match for good moments later.
Kerr’s first hat trick didn’t surprise her coach or teammates.
“JC’s naturally a great player,” Wong Yuen said.
Allie Shiraki put Honokaa on the board late in the first half, depositing her rocket from 45 yards out just below the crossbar on a direct kick. The Dragons (4-7-1) can still reach states with a win in Thursday’s third-place game against the loser of the match between East-Pac and HPA.
“We were just outmatched,” coach Gerald Shiraki said. “They’re just more skilled.
“With their possession, you end up in chase mode and get tired out. They handle the ball really well.”
Under siege all afternoon, Paglinawan made a nice save late in the match to deny Bryana-Marie Ebbers.
Kamehameha has beaten Honokaa in the semifinals the past three seasons. The Warriors are the two-time BIIF runner-up behind HPA.
Christian Liberty 8, Hilo 1
Nakaiya Kerr bagged four goals for his seventh hat trick of the season to put the host Canefire a point away from clinching an automatic berth to the Division II state tournament.
Louis Moylan netted three goals and Sequoya Kerr had the other for Christian Liberty (9-3), which can finish as the outright regular-season champion with a win or draw Friday at Makua Lani.
Nikolai Shumov recorded a goal for the Vikings (9-3-1), which finished the regular season on a two-match losing streak. Hilo will next take the field Feb. 5 at Hilo Bayfront against either Konawaena or Waiakea in the BIIF Division I semifinals.
Makua Lani 1, Honokaa 1
Kolby Martin’s goal midway through the second half helped secure a draw for the visiting Lions (5-5-2), who ended a two-game losing streak.
Tony Connors had given the Dragons the lead in the first half. Honokaa (7-2-3) visits HPA (6-2-3) on Friday, and both teams still have hopes of at least attaining a top-two finish and a first-round bye in the Division II playoffs. Ka Makani’s home match Tuesday with Parker was postponed until 2 p.m. today.
By Stephens Media Hawaii sources