PUKALANI - On elimination Tuesday night, it was the Kamehameha Schools Maui boys soccer team that found a way to survive.
Kamehameha Maui defeated Lahainaluna 2-1 to move into second place in the Maui Interscholastic League standings and realistically, if not mathematically, reduce the number of contenders for the league's pair of Division I state tournament berths to three.
"That was a huge three points," Kamehameha coach Kimo Correa said. "I don't know if you've noticed, but it is a four-team race, every team has got to win. That is the only way you are going to have an opportunity. We are still fighting for states, to win the MIL."
The Warriors (8-2-1) vaulted from fourth placed to second in the standings - their 25 points are two behind King Kekaulike. Each of those teams has three matches to play, while Baldwin (8-2-0) looms with 24 points and four matches left.
A.J. Owan, a 5-foot-4 midfielder, put Kamehameha ahead in the 15th minute with a half-volley rocket from 18 yards out.
"It just dropped and I just saw the ball, just shot it and saw it go into the upper corner, the goalkeeper couldn't get it," Owan said. "The Lunas are really good. I give them props for always battling back."
Lahainaluna's Rhys Lendio tied the match on a rebound goal in the 47th minute, and a hand-ball was called in the Lunas' penalty box in the 49th minute, leading to a successful penalty kick by Micah Alo.
The Lunas (7-3-2) appeared to have a tying goal in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick by Sergio Gallardo Pedroza, but he was forced to kick it again after players from each team moved into the penalty box too early. Gallardo Pedroza's next try sailed high to keep the score 2-1.
"Even though the refs had the off-and-on calls, like, for both sides, it was a great game," Owan said. "Both teams had good chances and it was just exciting to watch and play."
Lunas coach Sam Aki said that while his team is not mathematically eliminated, it will be tough now. The Lunas went to the state tournament for the first time in boys soccer last season.
"That was an elimination match for us," Aki said. "Well, we do have a very slim chance, but we need a lot of things to happen."
Aki said the MIL race has been fun to be a part of.
"Whoever does represent us at states, they are going to be tough," he said. "This race shows that the MIL is real strong and that we can compete."
Correa said his team was fortunate to come out on top.
"Lahainaluna just came out to play, we had some lucky breaks," Correa said. "We will take it, ball went in the back of the net."
The Warriors have two matches left against Maui High (1-5-0) and one against Seabury Hall (3-4-0).
"We need nine (points) out of those three games," Correa said. "Maui High, I give them credit, they have bee&n scrapping all year, they have been giving everybody a hard time. Seabury Hall has been playing ball, so it is no easy task that lies ahead for us."
Said Owan: "We just have got to finish our last three games strong."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org