BIIF girls soccer: Hawaii Prep stuns Kamehameha for title

KEAAU — Hawaii Prep was dressed in road black with red trim this time, looking like the underdog and often playing as one as well.

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KEAAU — Hawaii Prep was dressed in road black with red trim this time, looking like the underdog and often playing as one as well.

But there is still nothing new in Division II.

It might be cliche to say Ka Makani played with the heart and resolve of a champion, so make that an eight-time champion.

With an early flash and a boatload of fight, HPA’s girls kept the greatest BIIF soccer dynasty intact, handing Kamehameha its first loss with a 1-0 victory in the championship match Friday at Paiea Stadium.

“Tough question,” HPA coach Stephen Perry said when asked if he was surprised. “We worked extremely hard. We knew we had to compete, because they have speed all over the field.

“Our key people controlled the middle of the field in the second half.”

Ka Makani (8-2-2) took an early advantage when Emi Higgins took a volley from Payton Au and scored in the fifth minute.

After playing from the front the past seven years, what’s another 75 minutes?

“We have a lot riding on this, a legacy,” said Higgins, a sophomore. “That’s what pushed us over the top because we knew we had to do this.

“We do well in pressure situations.”

With two postseason halves in the books, the teams could well meet again at the HHSAA tournament, which starts Wednesday on Oahu. Ka Makani get a first-round bye as they seek their fourth consecutive state title, while the Warriors (8-1-1) will try to reach the final for the second season in a row.

“I hope we see them again, because I think (Kamehameha) is going to reach the final,” Perry said.

After a few seasons in which they appeared to be drawing closer to HPA, Kamehameha entered poised to finally break through against its nemesis. But playing on their home field, which suits their speed, the Warriors paid for their slow start and were relegated to their sixth consecutive runner-up finish.

“Hopefully, we see them next week,” Woodard said. “That final 70 minutes we played great, but not that first 10.

“We had plenty of chances.”

HPA, meanwhile only had a few, and with play-making Kamehameha junior Hevani Haunga creating scoring opportunities for others — Kiara Cuyo chipped a shot high and Hiwa Brown sailed a header wide — and herself, Ka Makani looked like they were going to have to hang on for dear life.

“We started to panic,” HPA senior Rowan Kotner said.

But not for long, because HPA’s core —Kotner, Higgins, Jenna Perry, Julia Perry, Teah Van Bergan and Zoe Ganley — cleaned up its play in the second half. Ka Makani didn’t merely just clear balls, they were strong to the ball, controlled pace and kept Kamehameha from making quick transitions.

Haunga scored 13 goals during this BIIF season, including four in Warriors win in Waimea in December, but HPA held her scoreless for the second consecutive match (the other was a 1-1 tie Jan. 14).

HPA freshman goalkeeper Maia Mills was in good position to handle all seven of her chances.

“I trust everybody on this team,” Higgins said.

Sturdy under fire, the second half was a metaphor for HPA’s entire season, Kotner said.

“We had to flip the switch to get back in it,” Kotner said. “We had to work with what we had this year and be creative, because we lost a lot of talent and had some injuries. But you can always find a way.”

HPA always does, and so the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Still, Stephen Perry didn’t deny that this title felt different from the previous seven.

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“Soccer is a weird sport,” he said. “We got some good bounces.

“On another night, maybe they finish some of their chances.”

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