Sabers girls slip past Na Alii

PUKALANI – This was a match the Maui High School girls soccer team couldn’t afford to let wash away.

After an oh-so-close try at their first state-tournament appearance in 17 years last season when they finished third on a tiebreaker, the Sabers defeated King Kekaulike 2-0 on a saturated King Kekaulike Stadium turf.

Tiana Lucas scored in the fourth minute off a corner kick from her sister, Tiare Lucas, and Maui High made it hold up in ultra-challenging conditions. The Sabers added an insurance goal in the 57th minute on an 18-yard rocket shot by Jordan Jarvis that scooted past goalkeeper Shelby Akuna.

A steady drizzle turned into a heavy rain in the 30th minute and was monsoon-like in the 40th as the teams headed quickly for the shelter of the locker rooms.

“I really told the girls during warm-ups, ‘I know King K, they have a strong, hard warm-up,’ ” Maui High captain Rachel Rivas Kaulupali said. “I said, ‘Look at them, that’s how we have got to be. We have got to focus, this is our game. This is the game that is going to make or break us.’ “

Maui High improved to 7-2-0 in Maui Interscholastic League play, while King Kekaulike fell to 5-6-0. The Sabers stand in second place with three matches to play. Kamehameha Maui (10-0-0) is in first.

There’s a strong chance Baldwin (7-3-0) and Maui High will play in a second-place playoff match as they split their two meetings. The tiebreaking criteria last season cost the Sabers when they finished tied for second with Na Alii, but lost the state spot based on King Kekaulike’s win and a tie head-to-head.

The Sabers have outscored the Bears 5-4 in their meetings, but MIL soccer coordinator P.K. Higa said Tuesday that is not a tiebreaker in a second-place scenario.

Maui High has Seabury Hall, Kamehameha Maui and St. Anthony left on its regular-season slate.

While the rain let up at the beginning of second half, the field was already like a lake. Passes were stopping dead in the midfield puddles.

Tiana Lucas ran over a perfect through ball when it got stuck in the puddle in the 44th minute. That started a counter attack for King Kekaulike, which resulted in a shot by Emmely Felipe that went just wide right.

“When we were talking at halftime, we told our teammates to just kick the ball,” Rivas Kaulupali said. “We cannot dribble because the weather just made it horrible.”

Maui High goalkeeper Keola Allen made a nice save on a shot by Birlinda Akinaka in the 48th minute. A few seconds later, the Sabers cleared the ball off the line when it got past Allen on a corner kick.

In the 62nd minute, Akuna stoned Mary-Lyn Johannes after the ball stuck in the mud in front of the goal and stood there for a moment – Akuna and Johannes arrived at it simultaneously.

Akuna made two more stellar saves on back-to-back shots by Johannes and Briana Yamamoto in the 70th minute.

Maui High’s Tony Medeiros has been the Sabers coach since 1983 -he took them to the 1984 state final – but he has not had a team in the state tournament since 1996 when assistant coach Leilani Abafo was on the team.

“Since I have been a freshman I have been with him and I want to take him back there for my last year,” Rivas Kaulupali said. “Because I know he really wants to.”

King Kekaulike coach Gundy Dancil knew the Sabers would come to play after last season’s result and the importance of the match.

“The second half was interesting,” Dancil said. “When the ball stopped, we knew there was going to be a puddle, but I guess the puddle helped them and not us. They have a good bunch over there, upperclassmen and they came to play.”

* Robert Collias is at