Guess who’s the top public school boys soccer team in the state last season?
Well if you guessed any other school but Waimea, then you’re wrong.
The Menehune capped off one of the most remarkable performances in Hawai’i high school soccer history with a third-place finish in last year’s state tournament.
Waimea also ran the table without a loss until they ran into eventual state champion Kamehameha.
The Menehune also erased Mililani’s hopes of a fifth straight state title and a win streak that nearly amounted to 100 games.
“That was a big win against Mililani. We had a pretty decent season. There’s very little I have to do. They’re just good kids. It’s a credit to their upbringing. They listen and are so easy to coach,” Waimea head coach Mark Kennett said.
The reigning KIF champions loss seven starters from last year, but according to Kennett, there is a good nucleus of players who were able to experience last season’s magic.
“I still got some really key players. Chad Thompson, Kenny Estes, and Kollin Morikawa are the guys we’ve built around. All three schools are close. Hopefully we’ll live up to our expectations,” Kennett said.
Kennett is entering his 11th season as the Menehune boys head soccer coach with stints from 1991-1996 and 2002-present.
But this year’s team has a lot of high hopes and dreams, which carry over from last season.
“When I try to compare this team to last year’s team, the will is still there. I think we show a lot of promise. If the rest can learn from what they’ve learned from the state tournament, then we should be fine,” Kennett said.
Due to the lack of finances and players being available, the Menehune weren’t able to take in any preseason action.
“It was more of a financial decision and because we’re so small, we have to share athletes from other sports. I didn’t have everybody until last week,” Kennett said.
Waimea’s starting lineup includes Morikawa at center back, Ansen Acain at goalie, Ryan Kunselman at left full-back, Froilan Tyler at right fullback, Sheldon Taniguchi at right half, Gregg Fujimoto at stopper, Scott Martin at left half, Kenny Estes at outside left or half, Chad “Mighty Mouse” Thompson and Cody Meirta upfront, and Nathan Martin at half back.
The Menehune open up the KIF soccer season against Kapa’a at Hanapepe Stadium, starting at 10 a.m.
“Kapa’a should be a lot more disciplined and Kaua’i’s going to be tough. They had a great preseason tournament. We got our work cut out for us,” Kennett said.
First-year Warrior head coach Kevin Cram would like his team to be deeper, but he’ll take his young team any day over any other squad in the state.
“We got a good group of kids, not as deep as we’d like to be. We only got two seniors that will start,” Cram said.
Kapa’a’s starters include forwards Rayom Ribeiro and Micah Ohlen (two seniors).
Chance Bukoski (midfield), Ikaika Fuerte (midfield), Asiss Rupert (midfielder), Billy Elms (midfield), Mike Almadova (outside defender), Jose Guerra (center defender), Terrence Cuyo (outside defender), Adam Kerlin (sweeper) Coty Salausa and Tom Yotwongjai (goalies).
“We got some good skilled players. Our biggest challenge will be depth,” Cram said.
Last season’s squad was inconsistent, but showed signs of brilliance throughout the year.
“I think one of the nicest things is that we had the JV players last year and we’ve tried to cut down the swearing and fighting. It starts in practice,” Cram said.
Kapa’a traveled to Hilo for a preseason tournament and compiled a 1-1-1 record.
“All the games were close. We’re working heavily on skills and fundamentals and having them develop a relationship with each other,” Cram said.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Cram views the Menehune as a tough customer.
“We’ll have problems defending them. We trying to learn how to defend speed. We just gotta go out and work hard,” Cram said.
Due to the Vidinha Stadium track construction and the unavailability of the Island School facility, all soccer games this season will be played at Hanapepe Stadium.
“For playing fields it’s probably the best available. Having to travel out there makes it a bit of a challenge. Hopefully we’ll take care of business on the field,” Cram said.
The KIF soccer season kicks off on Saturday, with Kapa’a traveling to Hanapepe Stadium to face the Menehune.
The JV girls start the festivities off at 10 a.m. The JV boys begin play at 11:45 a.m., the varsity girls kick it at 1:30 p.m., and the varsity boys open up at 3:30 p.m.
- Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 2453681 (ext. 257) or firstname.lastname@example.org