Baldwin Boys Reaping Rewards from Change
By Rodney S. Yap
Sometimes change is good.
For this year’s Baldwin High School boys soccer team, change has been great.
The Bears are enjoying an unbeaten 10-0-2 Maui Interscholastic League season, a Division I championship, and the state’s No. 2 seeding in the 12-team tournament being played this week at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
Baldwin will play Kapolei in the second of four quarterfinal matches today, beginning at 3 p.m.
On the heels of his team’s biggest game of the 2014 season, Baldwin head coach Kane Palazzotto paused to reflect on the contribution factors in his team’s turnaround.
In addition to the outstanding leadership the team has enjoyed from seniors Nick Lawrence, Jaren Otani and Matt Foronda, Palazzotto said Baldwin is benefitting from a “style” change.
“We really have tried to change our style of play,” the coach said. “And one reason is because it’s fun to watch.”
The Bears decided to take a page from World Cup champions Barcelona and its successful football club. The philosophy is simple, Palazzotto said: “It’s all about possession and trying to retain the ball.”
Palazzotto said he’s noticed the difference in his team’s play since “we committed to the change, and people noticed during the preseason. Parents were coming up to me and complimenting the kids on their passing skills.”
“I think that was the thing that really got us going. Then the kids started to believe in the system and once that happened, the captains, Nicholas Lawrence, Jaren Otani and Matt Foronda really started pushing this. They realized they could beat Kamehameha Maui if they played like this. We can hang with the big boys if we can retain possession and we are not playing defense too much. We want to be on offense most of the time.”
Baldwin hopes its new style of play will equal a new result today, against a familiar foe in Kapolei.
That’s because Kapolei blanked Baldwin 4-0 in the 2012 quarterfinals and in 2011, the second-seeded Hurricanes edged the Bears 2-1, following a 4-2 advantage in penalty kicks.
“They have just embraced this style and it is so fun to watch them play and to see how much they enjoy passing to each other. If you are in the right place at the right time, you are going to get a goal, that’s just the style we play now.”
The clutch play of Ricky Casco is a product of the team’s new style.
“He’s scored a couple of big goals for us this year, one against King Kekaulike and a big goal against Kamehameha Maui. Fortunately, he’s been in the right place, at the right time.”
The change has helped the team overcome adversity.
Injuries plagued the Bears at the start of the season, losing starting fullbacks Kapono Hoopii (broken collarbone) and David Torres (ACL).
By the middle of the season, 6-foot-1 Nash Wuthrich was leading the team in assists, “playing fullback for us,” Palazzotto said.
“Jaren and Nick will get all the accolades and scores, but this kid Matt Fornoda has been our best player from last year and a pretty good, solid defender this year. The thing that Matt brought to the table was he got Nick and Jaren to understand that we may be the core of the team, but everybody else is going to make the team flourish. It was Matt who got Jaren and Nick to understand that.
“Nick is such a winner. Every game he is serious and he wants to win. Jaren is this quiet guy who just goes about it and gets his stuff done on the field and leads by example. And Matt is the clown; he’s the guy lightening everything up. Nick puts pressure and Matt is the guy who is saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, just do your job and finish the next one, if you mess up its OK. He’s the guy who is picking up the slack and making everybody feels comfortable.”
Sometimes change is great.