Super return for Surf soccer: Rush can’t stop rally, club season starts

  • A Surf soccer player tries to stop Rush's Laaulu Kalauokaaea-Kahele on Sunday during a Hawaii Youth Soccer Association season-opening under-19 match. (Matt Gerhart/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Pardon the interruption, but an under-19 Hawaii Youth Soccer Association game took place on Super Bowl Sunday, which led to a quick clear out at the Hilo Bayront field after the Surf rallied past the Rush 3-2.

Surf coach Jobette Nabarro and Rush coach Steven Cootey are San Francisco 49ers fans, so they didn’t have a rooting interest in the Super Bowl winner.

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Sophia Wilson, a Kamehameha sophomore, scored two goals, including the game-winner, to spark the Surf to victory in the first club game in more than six months.

The Rush held a 2-1 halftime lead and often beat the Surf to the ball. That trend was reversed over the last 45 minutes.

“It’s hard to go from not doing anything to going full out,” Nabarro said. “But the big difference in the second half was we started to beat them to the ball and played our style of soccer.”

Both teams played a pass-and-possession style. It never turned into a kickball contest where ball skills are discarded over physicality, where faster, more physical players usually win out.

Nanea Wong Yuen, a Kamehameha junior, got in the box and converted on a left-footed shot for a 1-0 lead for the Rush. She’s the younger sister of Kekai Wong Yuen, a 2016 Kamehameha graduate and two-sport standout in soccer and softball.

Wilson took a free kick from about 35 yards out and tied it.

Then Jacelyn Cambra, a Waiakea senior and UH-Hilo commit, dribbled right down the middle and booted the ball in against a stunned Surf defense for a 2-1 Rush lead.

In the second half, Liana Lincoln, a Kealakehe junior, scored off a corner kick when the ball landed right at her feet.

That’s a lot of dedication to make the drive over to Hilo. In fact, Nabarro has a few players from Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa, so at least ride-sharing is a nice option.

With about 13 minutes left, Wilson shook free and scored her game-winner on a breakaway.

Cootey was philosophical about the game.

“Overall, I’m happy with the team’s effort but not satisfied with the result,” he said. “For our first game, I liked our style of play and our determination. We fought to the end.”

The game marked not only a return to soccer but a preview of future BIIF stars from around the island, starting with Wilson and defender Zadelyn Ferreira-Kawai, from Waiakea, and Jane-Grace Cootey, from Kamehameha, who’s related to Rush coach Cootey.

“Sophia is a very hard worker and leader on the field at practice,” Nabarro said. “I want to give a shout-out to Zade, who man marked Wong Yuen and getting Sophia open. It was teamwork and Jane-Grace on defense. She’s a hard worker.”

Perhaps the most impressive player was one of the youngest, Surf midfielder Kalia Franklin, an eighth-grader at Waiakea Intermediate.

She’s got solid technical skills, the ability to trap, pass, and dribble the ball. But it’s her decision-making, a subtle skill, that sets her apart. She just doesn’t make a bad pass and give the opponent an easy turnover.

But the best part is the most invaluable intangible, according to Nabarro, a 2003 Waiakea graduate, still regarded as the Big Island’s best female player. She holds the BIIF record of 32 goals and 17 assists in 10 games.

“She’s a very hard worker, lots of heart,” she said. “In soccer, you can’t just rely on skill, you need heart.”

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In Nabarro’s eyes, does Franklin look like or play like an eighth-grader?

“Not at all,” she said.

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