Hawaii Opens Bid in WAC Soccer Tourney
By Fred Guzman
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. But when placed in the context of recent history and pre-season expectations, the Rainbow Wahine have every reason to feel excited about being one of six teams from their eight-member league to qualify for the WAC soccer tournament.
Hawaii was picked to finish seventh in coach Michelle Nagamine’s first year on the job. And that projection appeared to be on the mark when UH got off to a dismal start, losing its first six and taking a 1-8 mark into the conference.
But things began to turn around for the Wahine — in large part, according to Nagamine, because of that challenging early-season, non-conference schedule.
UH opened the WAC with a 2-1 overtime upset of defending champion and title-favored Utah State. The Wahine went on to post a 4-2-1 mark for a third-place finish in the conference.
That set the stage for Hawaii’s first WAC tournament appearance in three years when the third-seeed Wahine tangle with sixth-seeded New Mexico State in today’s opening round. The Aggies beat visiting UH, 1-0, last week, but the rematch is on a neutral field.
The survivor will face second-seeded — and well-rested – tournament host Fresno State on Friday. Utah State rebounded from its opening loss at UH to win the WAC regular-season title and earned the top seed in the league tourney, which runs through Saturday.
Nagamine provided her team with further motivation, claiming that UH was snubbed by the rest of the league’s coaches in the all-WAC post-season selections that were announced last night.
Despite finishing third, Hawaii managed to get just two players on the all-star squad – and both were selected to the second team.
Nagamine felt that defender senior defender Brittani Lum and junior forward Skye Shimabukuru deserved better – particularly because UH posted victories against both first-place Utah State and runner-up Fresno State during the regular season.
Senior midfielder Kylee Kihara, a King Kekaulike grad, has been a season-long starter for the Rainbow Wahine.