Standout signs soccer deal with UH

HONOLULU — Mari Punzal of Kapa‘a stood out on the field while she was growing up.

“I was one of the bigger girls,” she joked. “A lot of the girls were small. I was the big, tall, chubby girl playing.”

Now she stands out in a different way — as one of Kamehameha Schools’ star players.

The 17-year-old Kamehameha Schools senior center mid-fielder, now tall and lean, scored one of four goals in the 4-2 victory over ‘Iolani, sealing the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title for the Warriors.

Today at Kapolei Hale on O‘ahu, she signs a soccer deal with her No. 1 school of choice, the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

“When I was in eighth grade I told myself I wanted to play for Hawai‘i,” she said. “Now I’m excited I get to play.”

The four-year scholarship contract covers tuition and books.

This week, it turns out, is a busy one for Punzal. Her soccer team goes into the state tournament as the No. 1 seed for Division I. On Thursday they face off against the winner of the Mililani/Moanalua game. And her best friend Brittany Carvalho plays on the fourth-ranked Kapa‘a High School team for Division II.

“We won’t play against each other because we’re in different brackets, but I’m going to try and watch her play,” Punzal said.

Punzal has attended Kamehameha Schools since her freshman year.

That year, she made the honorable mentions list for the ILH all-stars.

Although she hasn’t practiced with the Hawai‘i team just yet, she will this summer. She may even get to play.

“I hope I will. I’m going to work really hard,” she said. “I just really want to play.”

Punzal even asked her coach what her chances were, but was told that she would have to wait a while before she can find out.

Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Punzal played for the American Youth Soccer Organization and the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association. She had also looked at going to the University of Idaho and the University of Portland.

While at Hawai‘i, she plans on studying dental hygiene.

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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