It didn’t take Cameron Castillo long to lay down the law. At tryouts, any players that showed up late didn’t practice. Better yet, players have to wear certain colors to practice.
At 23, Castillo isn’t that far removed from high school. But make no mistake, senior Casey Nakatsu said, there’s a new sheriff in charge of Hilo High boys soccer.
“We’re a better organized team this year on and off the field,” Nakatsu said. “He keeps us in line. He knows when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to have fun. There is a time and place for everything, and he knows what it is.
“We were a little lackadaisical from last year. This is a big change from last year.”
That’s just what Castillo, the Vikings’ third coach in three years, wants to instill: a culture change.
“It’s the little things that fix their attitudes toward the game,” he said.
Nakatsu, a senior, said the team has taken to the increase in discipline.
“We’re more strict, regimented and well-mannered,” he said. “We’re not only representing ourselves, but we’re representing our parents and our school.”
Not that the program would appear to have needed a major overhaul. Hilo was the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I runner-up last season and has reached the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament in four of the past five seasons. Castillo knows all about the program and its potential. He competed against the Vikings while at Kamehameha, where he graduated in 2008 before playing at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
He’s intent on replacing “old-school Hilo High boomball” with a free-flowing attacking style. It’s a difficult “next-level” possession system to grasp, he said, but it can pay big dividends.
“You really have to understand the game,” he said. “But if these players can grasp it at a young age, they can go on and play at the next level. That’s my goal to get as many of them as possible to play at the next level.
“When you show them what it takes to be a college athlete, they buy into it.”
The Vikings graduated all three of their all-BIIF selections last season, including primary playmaker Justin Shiigi.
Another emphasis this season is better teamwork. Castillo wants to attack from the back line, giving more passing-to-feet responsibilities to players such as Nakatsu and Noah Catcho to start the rush.
The coach calls the midfielders his true workhorses, and he’s excited about the talent on hand in Andrew Dawrs, Nikolai Shumov, Kalei Perry and Nick Carter. Jace Taka is among the options to start at forward.
“A lot of tenacity and speed on the ball,” Castillo said.
Kaulu Ontai enters his first season as starting goalkeeper, but Castillo has been impressed with what he’s seen.
The lineup is littered with underclassmen, so neither the coach nor Nakatsu were caught off-guard when Hilo went 0-3 in the preseason at the Big Island Candies Hilo Bay Classic.
Nakatsu expects the Vikings to produce a more appealing brand of soccer that will in time net substance to match style.
“It’s soccer, not just kickball,” he said. “I’m sure the fans will appreciate a better game like that.
“I think at the end of the season we’ll see the best Hilo team we’ve had in a while.”