HILO – On the main soccer field Saturday at Hilo Bayfront, the Chicas’ vintage edition paved its the way to the championship game, and a little while later across the stream the club’s next generation did the same.
One common theme between the two sides, besides skill and tenacity, was everyone wore black on another sunny day at the Volcano International Soccer Tournament.
“We’re burning up,” Miya Clarke, a Chicas original, said. “Coach Skee (Saplan) doesn’t want us to wear white because we’re not angels, I guess.”
Certainly not to opponents.
The under-19 Chicas look well on their way to a Volcano threepeat, reaching today’s title game with two more wins, 3-0 against Valencia, Calif, and 3-1 victory against West Oahu behind the usual array of Hilo High standouts past and present who helped power the Vikings to three consecutive BIIF Division I titles from 2016-18: Clarke (2019 grad), Hollie Saplan (2019), Booboo Corpuz (senior), and even Alyeemomi Amaral, a 2018 graduate who came out of “retirement” for this one.
“It’s basically an alumni tournament,” Clarke said. “Just something we do before we all go our separate ways, than we can all come back.”
A Konawaena component was welcome as well. Wildcats alum Nalani Wall travels with the club team and Nanea Wall made a guest appearance, scoring a goal against West Oahu along with Corpuz and Saplan.
With the U19s and U14s playing at the Volcano tournament, Skee Saplan, the club architect, split the difference and went to Seattle to guide the U16s.
His absence gave Corpuz and Hollie Saplan a chance to coach the U14s, who lost for the first time Saturday afternoon, 3-2 to a visitor from East Los Angeles. The two teams will play again in today’s final at 11:10 a.m.
“It’s kind of rough because sometimes they do their own thing,” Corpuz said of coaching the younger bunch.
In other words, they remind Clarke and Corpuz of themselves when they were younger.
“We would fool around and coach Skee would get mad,” Corpuz said, “but once it came to game time, we played hard and worked together.”
She and Hollie Saplan might have to put their coaching hats away today. The 19s play their title game at 12:10 p.m. against Valencia.
“It’s crazy, they are the new generation that is going to be better and better,” Clarke said, “and it’s just wonderful practicing with them to help their kills and have them look up to us.”
The original Chicas jelled under Skee Saplan before high school and then became the nucleus of the Vikings’ dynasty. Hilo fell just short of a fourth consecutive BIIF D-I title, losing 1-0 to the Wildcats in the the 2019 BIIF final.
Skee Saplan liked to call last season’s senior core at Hilo High the “great eight.” Over the years, some left to join other club teams, but Clarke never wavered.
“Chicas is my family, I grew up with them, so respectful, so polite,” she said. “Skee is very helpful. He treats us as well as his own daughters”
Few BIIF players have a resume that can match the one she possesses. The four-time all-BIIF selection has two Player of Year awards to go along with the three BIIF titles.
Still, even as three of her former Hilo High teammates are headed toward scholarships at four-year schools in Division I or Division II, the fleet-footed Clarke is content to start out at a junior college. Clarke, who graduated with honors, will attend Peninsula Community in Seattle, where she hopes to find a springboard and reunite with BIIF alumni Jordan Zarate (Hawaii Prep), Kaiya Denis (Konawaena) and Halle Nottage (Makua Lani).
“I knew if I went D-I or D-II (school), I wouldn’t probably be playing,” Clarke said. “If I go to a JC, I can work on my skills and move up to a D-I or D-II.”
While the Chicas seek two titles at Hilo Bayftont today, the 16s will continue pool play at the Seattle Crossfire Tournament. They are looking to improve on a 2-0 record after beating Valor FC 2-1 on Saturday, getting goals from Briana Tanaka and Hinano Saquid.
With Chicas’ coach away, Clarke said the club is good hands in Hilo.
“We’re taking over,” she said.
In the U19 boys final, Waiakea and Kamehameha will play at 10:20 a.m. today. Waiakea’s only blemish so far was a 4-2 loss to Kamehameha (3-0-1) on Thursday. On Saturday, Kamehameha and Honokaa played to a 1-1 draw.