When Sanoe Souza entered Kamehameha Schools Kapalama on O‘ahu her freshman year, she was a budding soccer star. She had been playing soccer since she was a little girl, playing around her Kalaheo neighborhood with her cousins and eventually playing with the American Youth Soccer Organization and the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association.
It was the only sport she played.
Having grown up on Kaua‘i, Souza was reluctant to leave her home for the campus dormitory.
“I wasn’t going to come here (to Kamehameha),” she said. “It was something new and I didn’t think I was ready.”
But because soccer was her passion and she knew she was given the opportunity to get an education and build on her skills while attending there, she went.
Still, she missed her family and friends.
“I told my parents a lot of times that I wanted to come home,” she said.
She said her parents, Rowland and Elisa, would calm her by reminding her that Kamehameha was a good school with a good soccer program and that staying there was best for her.
“They’d tell me that it was almost over and that I’d regret coming back,” she said.
Souza, who graduated on Sunday, is more than happy she stayed. She thrived there, playing center midfield and forward. She also played alongside fellow star and Kaua‘i girl Mari Punzal. Punzal went on to play soccer for the Western Athletic Conference champions at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
“We used to always play up we were from Kaua‘i. We’d always say things like ‘Kauai represent,’” she said.
Souza played a major role in Kamehameha’s success throughout the years.
Starting from her sophomore year, the Warriors won three straight Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships and three straight JN Automotive Group/Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Division I State Championships.
“The first year we went to Maui for states, it was good. We dominated that year,” she said. “Then last year, we went undefeated the whole season.”
This year, Souza and the other five seniors on the team had to work harder to defend their titles.
“It was kind of tough. We lost a lot of key players — a lot of our starters — and nobody knew how the year was going to play out,” she said. “Everyone was saying this was a rebuilding year.”
But Souza said that made this winter’s state title a lot more rewarding.
“When we had tryouts, it was kind of sketchy. I was thinking we had a lot of work to do,” she said. “There was a lot of pressure for us seniors. It was kind of scary because you want to perform your best.”
The Warriors entered the state championship tournament 10-2-0 and ranked No. 1. In their first game in the quarterfinals against Kaiser High School, Souza scored the first goal in the Warriors 4-0 win to advance to the semifinals. They the went on to beat Mililani High School 1-0, in penalty kicks that went Kamehameha 4 to Mililani’s 1.
The Warriors went into the final to play conference rival Punahou School and won 1-0 with a goal from Courtney-Rae Botelho.
“After working so hard, we seriously had to earn that,” Souza said.
She led the ILH in scoring her junior year and finished second in scoring this past winter. She garnered First Team All-ILH and First Team HHSAA State Team and was named the Offensive Player of the Year for the ILH.
Now a graduate, Souza said she learned to never take anything for granted.
“When I’d come home, I’d spend a lot more time with my family. I guess it’s because I wasn’t with my family and I really missed them. I learned don’t take things for granted and to always make the most of every opportunity,” she said. “I’m glad I stuck it out.”
Souza plans on attending the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa this fall and majoring in Early Childhood Education. She will be walking onto Hawai‘i’s soccer team where she will again play alongside Punzal and with another Kaua‘i girl, Emma Makepa-Foley.
Family: Parents Rowland and Elisa, younger sister Kiani
School: Kamehameha Schools Kapalama
Awards/Accomplishments: First Team ILH, First Team HHSAA State Team, Offensive Player of the Year ILH; ILH champions (2006-2008), JN Automotive Group/HHSAA State champions (2006-2008)
• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or email@example.com.