PUKALANI - It was just the second Maui Interscholastic League match for each team, but the atmosphere felt thicker than that.
The Kamehameha Schools Maui boys soccer team sent notice to the MIL that it is ready to contend with a convincing 3-1 victory over defending champion Baldwin with a little help from Mother Nature on Tuesday night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.
The Warriors (2-0-0) rode a stiff first-half wind to a 2-0 lead on goals by sophomore Micah Alo in the 15th minute and freshman Brennan Joaquin 10 minutes later on a 20-yard direct kick.
After the two teams switched ends, the wind virtually died on a cool Upcountry evening. Chandler Alo boosted Kamehameha's lead to 3-0 in the 65th minute before the Bears got their goal from Kailoa Akoi in the 73rd.
"Any game you play in the MIL is important," said Warriors coach Kimo Correa. "All these teams are wonderful. Baldwin is a hell of a team. They play hard all the way. We were just fortunate to come out ahead."
Correa smiled when asked about the distinct wind advantage his team had in the first 40 minutes.
"If I had control over that - you know what, anything is possible, right?" Correa said. "I wish I did, but yeah, it kind of died down in the second half. We got a bit lucky with that."
The Bears are 1-1-0.
"It was a very important match, but it doesn't really tell us anything," said Baldwin coach Kane Palazzotto. "It just tells us that at this point we are not ready to play them and we have got to go put our hard hats on and go back to work."
Palazzotto refused to put much blame on the wind.
"In a way, but we have got to play smarter, too," he said. "We are trying to play a different style this year. We wanted to just hold on in the first half, but we didn't."
Kamehameha is second in the MIL Division I standings to Lahainaluna, which won at Seabury Hall on Tuesday - several of Lunas stayed Upcountry to watch the match between the Bears and Warriors.
"We have a lot of work to do," Correa said. "I have a lot more to teach them. I have to do a better job as a coach. Look at Lahainaluna, they look very tough."
With Baldwin pushing forward down the stretch, Kamehameha goalkeeper Acer Pahukoa came up with several key saves.
"Acer is a senior and we are counting on him like we did tonight," Correa said. "He played really well."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org