Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 |
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KILAUEA — Bethany Hamilton is home. Hamilton, 14, who lost most of her left arm in a shark attack while she surfed on the North Shore almost exactly a year ago to the day, scored a goal and helped her Na Anela teammates win the American Youth Soccer Organization Region 941 girls under-18 championship at Kilauea Field Sunday.
The peal of thunder that heralded the Sunday AYSO Region 941 girls under-18 playoff finals was appropriate, as the constant rain that pelted the field slowly let up, and despite trying to wet the players, held up through four quarters until another clap of thunder signaled the resumption of the rain as girls from the Northshore Angels and Na Anela headed for the shelter of the neighboring Kilauea Neighborhood Center.
About a year ago, coach Gwen Tamura’s girls under-14 team had battled to the top slot of their division at Vidinha Stadium, and following their victory, the girls secured the championship ball so they could each sign it for a team member who wasn’t there to share in the victory.
Tamura explained that Hamilton, who several days earlier had been bitten by a shark, was that missing member, and in presenting the autographed game ball to Hamilton, Tamura said, “I can coach her.”
Leading into the finals of the girls under-18 game Sunday, coach Tamura, who coaches both Kilauea teams in the age group, said she wasn’t sure Hamilton would be home from her book-signing tour to play in the game.
Hamilton returned home Thursday, and on Sunday morning joined her team as they warmed up in the rain at the field behind Kilauea Neighborhood Center.
Jocelyn Enrique, who was later named the most valuable player for both the Angels and Na Anela, paced Na Anela with two goals as they outdistanced the Northshore Angels, 8-2.
Hamilton entered the contest in the second quarter, and remained in the forward position for the remainder of the game, facing her best friend Alana Blanchard, who assumed goalie chores for the Angels in the fourth quarter.
On one play, Hamilton sustained a hit to the head as Blanchard’s kick of a save glanced off Na Anela’s forward.
Donna Palmer, commissioner of AYSO Region 941, asked Tamura if she could help coach the two teams prior to the season starting, and since Tamura had coached 20 of the 23 girls who signed up, decided she could take on the task.
Tamura said the two teams practice together, but never scrimmaged against each other except in mixed groups. “They support each other, yet play against each other competitively, knowing that one has to win, and one has to lose,” Tamura said. “They do their pre-game warm-ups together, subs sit together during the game, and when the ‘good-game’ bit is done, they cool down together, walking off the field in mixed groups.”
Hannah Steed prevented the Northshore Angels from being shut down as she notched a first-half goal.
Kristen Steiner, Leila Barnett, and Alex Pond each scored in the first half to complement Enrique’s goal for Na Anela.
Enrique scored her second goal in the second half for Na Anela, with goals also coming from Erin Pickett, Roxanne Belmonte, and Hamilton, her goal coming off a deflection from a Na Anela defender. Danielle Hoen had the sole Angels’ second half goal.
Following the contest, Tamura said Enrique’s leadership as well as soccer-playing ability earned her the MVP award for both teams. Gillian Pickett of Na Anela, and Wehi Oliver of the Angels, were selected as having the best attitude.
Tamura said most of these girls will return to the field later as Kauai Soccer Association seven-a-side players.
As the teams adjourned to the shelter of the neighborhood center, Hamilton pulled out a copy of her book, which she autographed for Tamura, “the best coach.” Hamilton concluded: “I still have the ball.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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