The game plan was simple: Take the lead early and hold on to the end.
“We had to take care of it in the first 20 minutes and just hold on,” said Jocelyn Enrique, who scored twice in Kapa‘a’s 4-3 win over Kaua‘i High.
Kapa‘a (7-2) started the game attacking the ball, charging at every attempt, regardless if Kaua‘i (6-3) challenged them or not.
“We didn’t want to give them a chance to bring us down,” said Kapa‘a assistant coach Maja Marti.
The game started at 6 p.m. on the dot, and Enrique’s first goal came less than five minutes after that.
Kaua‘i answered when Brandy Gomes scored on a penalty kick, but Brittany Carvalho launched a free kick over the wall which floated into the back of the net.
Fighting fierce winds, Kaua‘i keeper Savannah Rollins had some trouble predicting where the ball was headed.
“I know for the high ones, it was tough,” she said. “The wind made the kicks all more powerful and harder to predict. It made the ball go all over the place.”
Kapa‘a came close to scoring again when Enrique popped one over Rollins. With an open net, the ball was rolling right toward the goal line but Kaua‘i’s Auika Muragin rushed back for the save.
Enrique found herself in another great spot when she beat a pair of defenders and sliding a goal past Rollins.
Leading 3-1 at the half, Kapa‘a continued to strike after the break.
Kapa‘a’s Leila Barnett, who missed part of the last match with an injury, jumped in last night to get with the action.
“The ball was just sitting on the line,” Barnett said of a mad scramble in the box. Teammate Ka‘ala Leong slid into the goal against Rollins, and the ball popped up and landed on the goal line, there for the taking.
“It wasn’t in so I jumped over the goalie and put it in,” Barnett said. “It feels really good to get better and play with heart, which is what our team did.”
Kaua‘i had to come up big if they were going to stay in contention.
“I told them to go out there and play their hardest and give it 110 percent,” head coach Blanche Arakaki. “That’s how they played and we came back so that’s good.”
With only 10 minutes remaining, the tension mounting and both coaches on their feet, Skye Shimabukuro scored off an assist from Muragin to revive the Kaua‘i crowd.
Then it was Muragin’s turn. Controlling the ball down the right side, she fired a shot to the opposite corner to put Kaua‘i within one.
Kapa‘a could have iced it when Carvalho, known for her free-kick prowess, failed to convert on one when Rollins tipped it over the crossbar.
In a final attempt to tie the game, Muragin and Ashlyn Ubongen caught a break and advanced, but Kapa‘a keeper Poe Gantt came up with her final save of the regular season, helping Kapa‘a hold on and win the match.
At the final whistle, the team rushed the field.
“They did what I said, they performed for the crowd today,” said Kapa‘a head coach Crissi Marti. “It was a picture-perfect win for us and we’re going states.”
Tournament play starts Wednesday at Waipio Peninsula Park on O‘ahu.