PUHI — Senior midfielder Cody Taniguchi scored at the 35th minute to deliver the Menehune their second consecutive league title and a spot at the state tournament.
Waimea High School’s varsity boys soccer team (7-1-3 KIF) defeated Island School, 1-nil, on Wednesday to clinch the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship.
“It feels great,” Taniguchi said. “It’s where we’re supposed to be this year — practice hard and have the same (success) as last year. Hopefully, we take it this year — states.”
Taniguchi’s goal came off a corner kick. Menehune junior midfielder Kody Gardner served the ball toward the penalty area, and Taniguchi jumped high to meet the ball for the score.
“It’s a routine corner kick. We practice that every day. And, yeah, just get it in,” Taniguchi said.
Waimea head coach Kapono Chong-Hanssen said outside influence gave his team extra motivation to clinch another league title — referencing an earlier match in which Waimea and Island School played to a 1-1 draw, Waimea was issued three red cards and the fallout that occurred afterward including a letter to the editor published by TGI criticizing the team for dangerous play.
Wednesday, four Waimea players — defender Keane Caberto, defender Ian Malabe, midfielder Taydyn Francisco and and fullback Elijah Nishihira — were each issued yellow cards for unsporting behavior.
“My real thoughts, I can say, is thank you to all the Island School supporters for antagonizing and insulting my players,” he said. “It really helped them focus on what they wanted to do.
“Beginning of the season, we started off slow. I wasn’t sure where the season was going to go. We had that tough game, and people decided they wanted to start talking. The boys just got more focused. After that Kapaa game afterwards (Kapaa defeated Waimea, 2-1), we recovered. Since then, we’ve been progressing. We’ve been playing better. We still got a lot of work to do. We still haven’t played our best — up to our potential.”
Waimea had two chances at another goal in the closing minutes. Gardner took a shot from inside the 18-yard box, but Voyagers senior goalkeeper Andres Elzaurdia made the save.
Seconds afterward, senior foward Carl Mecham took a crack, but his shot sailed high.
Voyagers junior forward Emi De La Mora had three shots that bounced off the post in the first half.
At the 75th minute, Voyagers freshman midfielder Kieran Mitchell had a chance at an equalizer from outside the 18-yard box. Menehune junior goalkeeper Kaimi Lau-San Agustin made the save to preserve Waimea’s lead.
“It was a great game. Both teams battled very hard,” said Island School head coach Sean Magoun. “Both teams had their chances at the net. They did, and we certainly did. Their keeper made two fantastic saves in the second half, a couple in the first as well. We just didn’t get it to go in.”
Chong-Hanssen said of his goalkeeper: “I really have to say, man of the match for us was our goalie Kaimi. He’s been working all season. He’s gotten better each game. He’s gotten, I believe, three shutouts now. To me, that’s a masterpiece game for a goalie.”
Had Island School (5-4-2 KIF) won Wednesday, the Voyagers would have been in contention for a KIF championship going into the season’s last matches this weekend.
“I’m very proud of the boys and the growth they’ve shown, and also the evolution of their overall knowledge of the game,” Magoun said. “It’s good stuff. That’s what you hope for.”
Elzaurdia added: “I think, honestly, we played one of our best games so far. I honestly think we outplayed them. I think we just didn’t finish. I think that’s a crucial part of the game that we need to work on.”
The KIF boys soccer season will conclude Saturday. Waimea will host Kapaa at 11:45 a.m. at Hanapepe Stadium. Island School will host Kauai at 10 a.m.
Waimea will go on to play in The Queen’s Medical Center Boys Soccer Championships – Division II state tournament, which begins Feb. 9 at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex on Oahu.