Warriors driving toward one goal
This much is sure about Kamehameha girls soccer: Harper Hottendorf will be a handful to defend because of her speed, Tiana Iwata is the distributor in the middle and Anuhea Leite-AhYo patrols the back in front of goalkeeper Cyrene Andaya.
Individually speaking, that’s about as far as coach Sonya Ah Chong was willing to go.
“Keep you guessing, along with everybody else,” she joked.
The program’s success in Division II speaks for itself. The Warriors are a yearly visitor to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, and they’ve advanced to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation finals the past two seasons.
Ah Chong will say that this is one of the closest teams she coached.
“They push each other,” she said. “In the past I haven’t had that drive. They’re really pushing each other to be the best they can be. It’s great. It makes me excited.”
If Ah Chong is tight-lipped about individual play, it’s because the team’s goal is to play as one, not 11. She’d also like to keep her players guessing to keep them competitive in practice. While Ah Chong hadn’t decided who was going to play where in the starting lineup, she said there is a wealth of athletic talent on the roster thanks to a great feeder program from the middle school.
And the team chemistry is perhaps the best it’s been as she gets set to start her fourth season as coach.
“We’re definitely close,” Iwata said. “We know each other. We know what we’re capable of. Not to say we’re harsh, but we’re on each other.”
Iwata, a co-captain, and Leite-AhYo have been contributors during their first three years in the program, while seniors Hottendorf and Mikela Cabel are also co-captains.
The team must replace Kera Akiyama, one of the BIIF’s best goal scorers the past two seasons, as well as goalkeeper Lehua McGuire. However 11 players who made all-league honorable mention last season return: Hottendorf, Iwata, Leite-AhYo, Cabel, Tachi Iwata, Sara Kim, Bryana-Marie Ebbers, JC Kerr, Kekai Wong Yuen, Meagan Kualii and Iris Jarvis.
“We don’t know where they’ll be,” Ah Chong said. “We’ve been working through a lot of different things, and it’s been exciting to see them progress.”
She said Andaya stood up well in goal during the Warriors’ competitive preseason.
The past two seasons the Warriors have advanced to the BIIF finals only to run into a juggernaut, four-time champion Hawaii Prep.
Asked if the team learned anything along the way, Tiana Iwata stressed “the importance of playing together and working as one.”
Just a few feet away, her coach was smiling.