Warriors wrap up MIL title
OLINDA – For 70 minutes of play Tuesday afternoon at the Seabury Hall soccer field, the faces of the Kamehameha Schools Maui boys team and fans were as gloomy as the gray Upcountry skies overhead.
Then, Stephen Barut and Daniel Quenga combined on the biggest goal for the Warriors since 2009.
Barut’s low laser-beam shot from the right side skidded in front of Spartans goalkeeper Tyler Gentile and when the rebound ricocheted to Quenga, the junior midfielder got the ball into the net in the 71st minute for a 2-1 win that clinched Kamehameha’s first Maui Interscholastic League title in four years.
“Stephen took a really nice shot and I just wanted to make sure it went into the back of the net because I saw it bouncing around,” Quenga said. “I was focused on getting it in the goal, so I used any part of my body just to get it in. It went off my stomach and chest, kind of.”
Quenga has risen to the occasion lately – three of his four goals on the season have come in the last two matches. None was bigger than his clean-up effort on Tuesday.
“I was stoked, I just wanted to get our team to states and (be) MIL champions,” Quenga said. “I was ecstatic. I didn’t know what to do. Probably the biggest goal of my life.”
Kamehameha Maui (11-2-1) finished the regular season with 34 points and shut out any chance for King Kekaulike (9-1-3) to claim the title in its final match on Tuesday against Maui High.
Several Na Alii players and parents attended Tuesday’s match and they were smiling when Seabury Hall took a 1-0 advantage on a penalty kick by Alec Gumpfer in the 40th minute.
With the Warriors needing a win, they pressed the Seabury Hall defense nearly all of the second half and got the equalizer after Chandler Alo was fouled and buried the penalty kick in the 46th minute.
With Gentile, the first-team MIL All-Star goalkeeper last season, and a defense spearheaded by Henry Hegele holding the Warriors at bay for the next 25 minutes, a tie loomed.
Finally, the breakthrough came and Quenga was mobbed by teammates.
“It feels really good,” he said. “First time we get to go to states in high school. Seabury Hall played us really tough.”
The Spartans (5-7-1) – the MIL Division II champions -dealt a large blow to King Kekaulike’s title hopes in a 1-0 win over Na Alii last week when Gentile was impenetrable, a result that opened the championship door for Kamehameha.”Seabury came to play,” Kamehameha Maui coach Kimo Correa said. “This is their home field and if you noticed the MIL, everybody protects their home field pretty darned good, for sure. I give them a lot of credit, they are preparing for state, so I wish them a lot of luck. I think they will do really well.”
Asked about his own team, Correa broke out a large smile.
“Are you kidding me? These kids all year, you know, we had one goal,” Correa said. “The first goal was to go to states and we did. MIL champs, I told the kids it’s like gravy all over the MIL. It’s on the chicken cutlet, gravy-all-over kind of thing. Now, we have to go get that state (championship).”
The top four teams in the standings are still separated by just five points.
“The MIL is a tough league and if anybody looks down on the MIL, I think they are really sorely mistaken,” Correa said.
Seabury Hall coach Bill Cunningham said games like the one against Kamehameha will have his team ready for the D-II state tournament.
“We knew coming in they are the top team in the league and let’s give them a run, just give them a run,” Cunningham said. “We played hard, we took the tools that we have and went out and gave them a match.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org