HANAPEPE — Soccer was not on the horizon for Tori Ishikawa, who will be graduating from Kapa‘a High School in a matter of weeks.
That is until Chance Bukoski, the Kaua‘i High School girls soccer coach, got involved, said Robert “Bobo” Ishikawa, Tori’s father, Saturday afternoon in the garage of their Hanapepe home, where Tori put the pen to a letter of commitment to play women’s soccer for the Hawai‘i Pacific University Sharks.
“We owe a lot to coach Chance,” Bobo said. “He worked with her and arranged to have Tori participate in a tryout, where the HPU coach Adria Borras could see her and consider her for a position with the Sharks team.”
Tori and Talia Washington were the two strongest players on the Kapa‘a Warriors team, Bukoski said.
“We worked our defense on trying to contain them,” the Kaua‘i coach said. “Following our games at the state tournament, it saddened me to find out they had no plans (for soccer). It reminded me of myself in high school when I tore my ACL during my junior year — just like Tori. I just stuck my neck out. Kaua‘i has so many good players on all of its teams. It is sad they are not seen.”
Bukoski coached the Kaua‘i High girls to the Division 2 title game during the 2020 Queen’s Medical Center Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association girls soccer championships at the Waipio Peninsula soccer fields on O‘ahu in February. Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy of the Big Island won that game, 4-1.
The Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation fielded three teams in that state tournament, Tori’s Kapa‘a squad finishing tied for third place following a 2-2 deadlock against Mid Pacific Institute, and Waimea, earning state eligibility with a shutout over Honoka‘a at Hanapepe Stadium, finishing fifth following its loss to Kamehameha-Hawai‘i of Hawai‘i Island.
Bukoski, himself an alumnus of the HPU soccer program, arranged for Tori to try out with Borras.
“We just worked to get her confidence up,” Bukoski said. “Kaua‘i is dominant in soccer, so all she needed to do was play like she normally does. As a soccer player, this was like giving back. She did all the work. She showed up and impressed the coaches.”
Bobo said that, following the tryouts, they toured the HPU campus in Honolulu, and were surprised to learn of the positive comments from four other girls participating in the tryouts, the common thread being Tori’s ability to communicate on the field.
“She was always good at communicating,” Bukoski said. “That was one of the things that impressed coach Borras — that, and her hard work on the field. Tori was always good at first touch, giving that 110% I’m-going-to-win-this commitment. This is the level of commitment that makes her special.”
Tori, surrounded by her soccer sisters Ashley Meecham and Mia Takekuma, whom she grew up with, was modest in the attention at Saturday’s signing ceremony.
“I’ll be studying something in business,” she said amidst the banter of soccer days gone by. “Maybe I can do something with this.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.