High school soccer: Ka Makani sweep Classic crowns

  • After missing all of last season with an injury, Jordan Zarate returns to bolster Hawaii Prep’s girls soccer team. “She’s a force,” Ka Makani coach Steve Perry said. (RICK WINTERS/West Hawaii Today)

A Ka Makani Classic indeed.

Hawaii Prep’s soccer programs put forth vintage performances at their 46th annual preseason tournament, capping the holiday weekend off Sunday in Waimea by sweeping the championships in a pair of 2017 HHSAA tournament rematches.

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The HPA girls appeared fit to defend their statewide Division II dynasty, beating Sacred Hearts 3-1, while the boys team looked ready to make the jump to Division I after winning consecutive state D-II titles.

The biggest difference between the classifications, coach Rich Braithwaite said, is “the speed of play, especially how little time you have on the ball, with pressure.”

HPA stood up to the pressure twice – first Saturday in a 4-0 victory against Kapolei, an HHSAA D-I semifinalist last season, and then again Sunday in a 3-1 win against Saint Louis in a rematch of last season’s state D-II final.

“I was really proud of their mental toughness, especially today – that was a fast, athletic team we played,” Braithwaite said. “Yesterday, I was really proud that we came out early with our energy against a team that we knew was going to be physical.”

The competition was organized and brutal – in a good way.

“This was huge for us,” Braithwaite said.

One huge piece of news for HPA’s girls as it sets its sights on a fifth consecutive state title is the re-emergence of forward Jordan Zarate, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

“We’re getting her back in the mix, and she’s a force,” Perry said. “Just very hard to move off he ball.”

In Zarate’s absence, Emi Higgins took over a lead role last season for Ka Makani, displaying a knack for scoring big goals. The junior netted HPA’s first goal again in Sunday’s final off a pass from Jenna Perry. Perry bagged a goal of her own and Makana Blake also scored against Sacred Hearts, which Ka Makani edged 3-2 in the 2017 state quarterfinals.

In Saturday’s semifinal, Ka Makani earned a 1-0 win against Mid-Pacific – a former state rival which now resides D-I – and they started the tournament off Friday by conquering Maui 3-0.

“We played three different teams that laid back a bit,” Perry said. “(Saturday) we were a little flat, but I was much more happy with our energy (Sunday).

We didn’t try to force the issue.”

The girls repeated as Ka Makani Classic champions, while the boys won their second title in three seasons.

Chris Whitfield, Jake Schneider and Ilan Naibryf scored for HPA in the final, and Ka Makani did a good job of marking the Crusaders’ Skyler Goo, who Braithwaite sees as a future Division I college player.

Schneider, a junior, will be counted on to score his share of goals this season, but he might not have to pick up too much slack left by the graduation of his brother, Austin, thanks to the emergence of players such as Whitfield and Brendan Moynahan.

Whitfield scored two goals Saturday, while Moynahan and Tage Boyette, who formerly played for Parker, are the prime candidates to try and replace Braden Kojima, the BIIF D-II Player of the Year, in the midfield.

Naibryf, Jevon Flippin and Sihkea Jim are the captains.

“Jevon was kind of our player of the game,” Braithwaite said. “He did an excellent job on (Goo).”

A new face is Conor Hunt, a player that Braithwaite is trying to where to fit in.

Heading in HPA’s BIIF opener Saturday against Hilo in Waimea, the composition up top and on the backline are somewhat unsettled, though Ka Makani aren’t lacking in candidates,

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Toby Balaam played right back Sunday but is also an option at forward, and Jim is backline stalwart who Braithwaite would like to find time for in the middle.

“There is a lot of good competition in the BIIF this season” Braithwaite said. “We’re really excited to play Hilo.”