HONOLULU — In the moments leading up to the tilt with rival Mid-Pacific, Hawaii Preparatory Academy coach Steve Perry had a simple yet powerful message for his squad: “They’re not going to give it to us — we have to rip it away.”
Ka Makani did just that, pulling out a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over the Owls in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II girls soccer championship Saturday at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
The second-seeded HPA squad improved to 13-2-1 on the season, and the five-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation champions ended up outscoring their five postseason opponents 28-1.
With the score knotted at 1-1 in the match’s first 10-minute overtime frame, HPA pushed the tempo and used an aggressive offensive front to create space in the attacking half. In the 86th minute, sophomore forward Marlie Mandaguit lobbed an outlet pass to midfielder Nanea Tavares. The senior received the pass, and as Mid-Pacific goalkeeper Sarah Poppinga appeared to hesitate and rock backward, Tavares evaded the last line of defense and deftly headed the ball into the net.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Tavares said as she labored to catch her breath. “We worked really hard to get where we are … I love this team.”
Ka Makani’s victory carried extra weight for the program, which was eliminated by Mid-Pacific in the 2012 (1-0) and 2013 (2-0) state championship games, as well as in the semifinal round in 2011.
While HPA controlled the action for most of the opening half, Mid-Pacific broke the stalemate on a set play as Owls midfielder Janaye Shepherd scored with 13:19 remaining in the period. The versatile Shepherd took a free kick in her attacking half just past midfield — more than 40 yards away — and lobbed an intended through pass right at Ka Makani goalkeeper Morgan Monahan, who misjudged the skipping ball that bounded just inside the right goal post for the match’s first tally.
Top-seeded Mid-Pacific (6-7-2) did its best to hold the lead, and withstood an early barrage of shots from HPA’s stable of attackers. Ka Makani, which outshot the Owls 23-7 in the match, notched the equalizer in the 72nd minute as Bri Vallente — who finished the tourney with four goals — knocked in a loose ball that ricocheted around the goal box and found the tenacious forward’s boot.
“We were really down on ourselves at first, but we got back up and realized that we were just down one goal,” Tavares said. “We came right back and worked really hard. We lost to them (in the finals) two years in a row, and it just feels great to come back. I respect them, and they’re a great team, but we were the better team tonight.”
The victory netted HPA its first state soccer title, and represents the school’s 14th overall state crown. The championship is the first for a Big Island Interscholastic Federation competitor since Kamehameha-Hawaii won the Division II banner in the tournament’s second year in 2008.