It wasn’t the holiday blues, more like the holiday blahs.
Konawaena had been looking forward to playing Hilo all season, but Friday’s result left coach Kaua Wall searching for the right emotion for the occasion.
Not too good, not too bad and certainly not just right.
“We’re a little, well, we’re not happy,” Wall said. “I’m not disappointed, but I don’t know what the word is.”
A draw, in this case 1-1, does have a way of leaving a coach with an empty feeling.
After 80 spirited minutes of girls soccer between the two schools that have combined to win 11 of the past the past 12 BIIF Division I championships, the Wildcats (4-0-1 White division) and Vikings (4-1-1 Red) systematically trudged off the field at Hilo Bayfront, congratulated one another and said their goodbyes.
If they meet again this season it will come during the BIIF playoffs, something that, despite both teams’ successes, hasn’t happened since 2014.
If Wall was feeling average, at least she had company nearby in Vikings coach Skee Saplan.
“Getting them to focus on the end game is challenging,” he said. “We’re trying to play better soccer instead of getting into a kick-and-run match.
“Sometimes when we panic and start doing that it levels the playing field.”
Playing on sunny day and on a field that drained well after being underwater just 48 hours earlier after a deluge, both goals came in the first half.
Nalani Wall converted on a penalty kick for the Wildcats, and the Vikings got the equalizer eight minutes later near the midway point of the half as Alyeemomi Amaral scored from 25 yards out after taking a left-to-right pass from Hollie Saplan.
The tying goal came because Hilo began to string passes together, but that buildup only came in spurts, and “the second half was too much kickball,” Saplan said. “Too much.”
“I felt like we were dominating possession in the first half,” he said. “We were building well, but we should just keep doing it.”
While Wall certainly wasn’t taking away any moral victories from a tie on the home field of the two-time defending champion, it should be noted the Wildcats faced a schedule front loaded with matches against traditional East Hawaii powers and came away unbeaten, allowing only two goals. Konawaena beat Kamehameha 2-1 on Wednesday and the Wildcats defeated Waiakea 1-0 on Dec. 5.
Konawaena’s back line – Tiare Quintal, Kaiya Denis, Nanea Wall and Jadaisha Waahila were four of the primary players Friday in front of goalkeeper Kyanah Blas – fared well against Hilo’s fleet-footed forwards, Miya Clarke and Jordyn Pacheco.
“We have a very aggressive back line,” Wall said. “They are able to get first to the ball in step.”
In two instances in the second half, Clarke beat the Wildcats to the ball down the right flank and sent crisp crosses through to the middle of the penalty box. There was no Vikings home the first time, and the second cross was deposited over the cross bar by Haley Miyasato
“Speed, strength and size,” Saplan said of Konawaena’s back line.
Wall was equally complementary of the Viks.
“Hilo has fast forwards we had to take care of,” Wall said. “They played very well. You can tell they are a very disciplined team.”
Perhaps the two sides will meet again this season.