KEALAKEKUA — Pearl City entered Monday’s HHSAA Division I state contest with Konawaena feeling a little sluggish. The team did not have a lot of time after landing on the Big Island for their first round match, and the players rushed to get lunch in before taking the pitch.
It was a mistake that the Chargers would ultimately survive after defeating the Wildcats 4-1 in Kealakekua, but one that will not be repeated in the future after the team maintained only a one goal lead after the first half.
“Traveling is kind of fun, but I was worried when we started the game because I think they ate a little too much,” said Pearl City head coach Frank Baumholtz. “We had a crunched time frame due to the flight and only had about two hours to get all of our things and eat before game time.”
The normally speedy Chargers (13-1-0) may have played a little slower than normal in the first half, but the team’s first goal caught everyone by surprise, leaving some fans in the stands questioning twhat happened.
Taking the opening kick, Pearl City dropped the ball back to the midfield and a perfect pass with back spin was played up to senior and team leading goal scorer Daelenn Tokunaga, who took the ball on two bounces and tapped it into the right side of the net uncontested. The goal was one of two on the day for Tokunaga, giving her 19 for the season.
“For about 17 seconds we came out on fire, then we just got too comfortable,” Baumholtz said. “The goalie was coming on that play, and we knew she would because we played Konawaena in the preseason, so I told the girls before the game that as soon as their head is turned to goal, get it in quickly. The goal helped take some of the pressure off right away.”
The game remained 1-0 through the first half. The Wildcats quickly found out that scoring on the Chargers is no easy task. In 12 OIA games this season, Pearl City did not allow a goal in eight of them and only allowed more than one goal in one match.
In the second half, Konawaena (9-4-1) was the aggressor early, and in one series of plays, the Wildcats put the ball in the box on four straight kicks, including two corners. However, they could not convert.
Pearl City’s second goal came out of nowhere when the sugar-fueled freshman Soraya Santos took a pass at the top of the six from Bree Fuller and slid the ball past Konawaena keeper Kyanah Blas.
“In the first half, I played really down, but I got pumped up because my coach gave me candy,” Santos said. “I could tell Bree was in trouble when the goalie came out to her so I called her name. She passed it to me and I was wide open.”
The Wildcats managed to cut the deficit in half off a heavy-footed 35-yard bullet from junior Nanea Wall with 20 minutes to play, but six minutes later Santos scored again, this time off a header off a cross from Caylie Uyema.
“My eyes were closed,” Santos said with a laugh. “I ran around Daelenn because I could tell the ball was going to go over her head. When it did, she yelled ‘aw-shucks’ but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
The Chargers will advance to the state quarterfinals on Thursday where they will play No. 1 seeded Kamehameha-Kapalama at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex on Oahu at 7 p.m. Pearl City defeated Kamehameha twice this year, both coming in the preseason.
However, Baumholtz knows the preseason was a long time ago.
“It’s a whole new ball game,” he said. “Kamehameha has so much talent. We will need to play our best game.”
The Chargers lost in the semifinals last year and won the championship two years ago. With three freshmen in the starting lineup, the foundation is set to be competitive at states for at least the four years.
As for Konawaena, the young Wildcats managed to surprise a lot of people by making it back to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
“For being so young, I am really proud of this team. The players stepped up and it is admirable,” said Konawaena head coach Kaua Wall. “The girls are going to get older and stronger. They can do some damage in the future.”