Warrior Boys Win MIL Soccer Opener Against Bears
By Rodney S. Yap
Using Wednesday’s season opener as a measuring stick, fans of Maui Interscholastic League boys soccer can expect a break-neck tempo, in-your-face, attacking brand of football, not for the faint of heart.
Kamehameha Maui’s Colton Cabanas re-directed a corner kick with one flick of his head in the 55th minute to beat visiting Baldwin High School 1-0 at Kanaiaupuni Stadium on the Warriors’ Upcountry campus.
The senior midfielder soared above a handful of Baldwin defenders, who were trying to mark him, when Brennan Joaquin’s corner kick made contact with Cabanas’ head from about 15 meters away. The ball bounced once just as it sped past Baldwin goal keeper Benjamin Wuthrich.
The set play proved to be the difference in the season-opening match for both teams as the MIL boys’ season officially kicked off the 2014-2015 campaign.
“We’ve been practicing it this week so I knew that sooner or later I would have the opportunity and I knew that I would have to bury it,” said Cabanas of the play. “Coach told me that I needed to get to the ball no matter where it is and so I took my opportunity and it worked out.”
The outcome gave the Warriors three points, a huge early-season advantage when you consider the teams were tied in their two MIL matches last season. The Bears earned the MIL title with 32 points and a 10-0-2 record, one point ahead of the runner-up Warriors at 9-0-3.
“I think we played well. We have a lot of room for improvement,” Cabanas said. “But overall we did a decent job for our first game of the season.”
Warriors’ first-year head coach Kyle Herendeen said he was not surprised with the see-saw nature of the match or the quality of play from Baldwin.
“It was a hard-fought game. I am proud of the boys, especially going against a quality team like Baldwin — well-coached, good players. I’ll take the win any way I can get it. We’re just happy to start off with a victory, but we certainly have work to do.
“Set pieces are so important and Colton went up and got the ball. Everybody did their part and he went up and got it. He’s a great athlete. . . . I don’t think it had anything to do with Baldwin’s youth because I was impressed with the way they played.”
The Warriors controlled possession in the second half with returning all-star strikers Joaquin and Micah Alo. The pair often sparked runs with a touch pass, handling most of the attack in the middle themselves or feeding the ball to streaking midfielders Cabanas or Paytin Ayau down the sidelines.
Defensively, the Warriors were led by goal keeper Keola Paredes, and fullbacks Bryant Kubo and Chase Nakagawa.
Baldwin was led by junior midfielder Derek Hight, who did his best to pressure Kamehameha Maui’s defense, but the Bears’ attack lacked the breakaway speed and finishing punch from a year ago.
Transitioning from the departed all-star duo of Jaren Otani and Nick Lawrence, who combined for 26 goals and 32 assists as seniors a year ago, to the Bears’ current 23-player roster that features only four seniors, will require extraordinary patience.
Baldwin head coach Kane Palazzotto knows the challenges facing his young team.
“I’ve got to give it up to our boys, I thought we played well. We are a young team and we made a young mistake in the back on the corner kick. And at the end of the game it got a little wild because we were pushing to get a goal,” Palazzotto said.
“I thought we created the better chances in the first half, but it wasn’t enough tonight, just not enough.”
Palazzotto is pleased with the team’s promise, learning to avoid situational miss-matches will be critical to the team’s success and immediate progress.
“Derrick (Hight) did a good job tonight, there were a couple of chances he had in front of the goal tonight and he just missed getting his foot on it. He’s a junior and he’s going to continue to learn and get better. I think that’s the case with Micah Ching, too. We’re young, but we’re going to be OK.”
Herendeen said hard work in practice will determine the Warriors’ future.
“We have to continue to work hard. We have high expectations, there’s a lot of talent here and with the quality of the league, we’ll go as far as our work ethic will take us.”
GIRLS: Bears 2, Warriors 1
Baldwin sophomore striker Kacy Navarro scored two goals as the Bears rallied from 1-0 early deficit to snap the Warriors’ 22-match win streak.
Kamalei Roback put Kamehameha Maui ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 4th minute, but Navarro sent the equalizer into the back of the net off a breakaway with four minutes left in the half.
Navarro put away the winning goal in the 61st minute, off an assist from freshman Angelle Ferge.
Baldwin improves to (2-0-0), while the match was KS-Maui’s season opener.
When asked when was the last time his team was beaten at home, third-year Kamehameha Maui head coach Steven Mau said: “I don’t know. I don’t think we ever did, not since I’ve been here.”
Mau said his team had a chance to clear the air — with a grip session — after the match.
“Our girls were complacent. . . . But I don’t have any ill feelings. We have to fix what’s wrong and in a way I’m happy this has happened, because we have to move forward from here on.”