Warriors clinch MIL crown

PUKALANI – Kamehameha Schools Maui’s understated bliss was Maui High’s unmitigated heartbreak.

The Warriors girls soccer team won their school’s second Maui Interscholastic League title ever with a 1-0 win Tuesday night on senior night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium, denying the Sabers a shot at their first crown and state berth since 1996.

Moana Astronomo’s goal on a breakaway in the 36th minute was her fifth in the last two matches, but this one clinched a championship for Kamehameha Maui (12-2-0).

“It was me and the other girl, so I just toe-flicked it in,” the lightning-quick 4-foot-11 sophomore midfielder said. “It’s all I could do, there was no angle at all.”

The shot was the first and only one that made it past Maui High goalkeeper Keola Allen, who had 12 saves on the night as the Warriors peppered the Sabers’ defense for much of the match.

“I didn’t know where (Allen) was, I just kind of flicked it in and hoped for the best because I didn’t know where it was going,” Astronomo said.

Kamehameha Maui’s only other MIL girls soccer title came in 2008 when Astronomo was in the 5th grade. Seven of her teammates were draped in lei after their final home match, although there was a clear focus knowing that the state tournament awaits Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.

“It’s cool we did it for our sisters, you know, not just for ourselves,” Astronomo said.

For the Sabers, who pressured mightily in the final 30 minutes, knowing their season was on the line, it is bitter disappointment as their postseason drought grows to 17 seasons.

“Very tough loss, I don’t like to lose a game like that, 1-0,” said Tony Medeiros, who guided Maui High to 12 MIL crowns in his first 14 seasons, but none since. “I would have rather lost 4-0.”

Maui High (9-2-2) may play its final match on Thursday, a make-up contest against Lahainaluna, but the Sabers are eliminated from state tournament consideration – they can catch King Kekaulike (10-2-2) in points, but Na Alii own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win and a tie against Maui High.

“They worked hard all season,” Medeiros said of his closest shot at a state trip since 1996. “It came to this game to get us into states or whatever, but I think the girls played really well. They showed their heart and souls there and our goalie did a great job, Keola Allen, fantastic game.”

Medeiros could only wonder what could have been, but the equalizing goal that would have kept the Sabers alive never materialized. The Sabers should be back in the mix next season with only three seniors on the roster.

“We give up one late goal first half, that was it,” Medeiros said. “We had some good chances in the second half.”

The seasoned Warriors are right where they want to be.

“We got flat in the second half,” Kamehameha Maui coach Steven Mau said. “We should have dominated and put the game away in the first half already. We had so much sliding balls inside, so much opportunities at the goal, but we didn’t accomplish what we came to do.”

Mau said that the title is big for the school and community.

“Aw shucks, to any team, any school, it is going to matter,” he said. “It makes a whole world of difference because that is what you prepare for, it’s what you do. At the beginning of the season, I promised them that they were going to win. Now is today, that was then, and here we are.”

Mau said it was about halfway through the season that he discovered what this team could do in his first year at the helm.

“I was subbing out five, six, seven, eight, 10 players,” he said. “I was trying to find the jell, find the connection, and we finally found it. . . . Moana Astronomo, for example, she has brought some fire the last couple weeks, she’s peaking right now.

“We’re ready for state, we are peaking at the right time. We are ready, there is no turning back now.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com