Na Alii earn critical victory over Sabers

Asue’s second-half goal lifts King Kekaulike, 1-0

Lyti Akinaka of King Kekaulike High School passes between Maui High’s Azita Rodrigues (left) and Tihanee Freitas on Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Lyti Akinaka of King Kekaulike High School passes between Maui High’s Azita Rodrigues (left) and Tihanee Freitas on Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

PUKALANI — The King Kekaulike High School girls soccer team knew the importance of Thursday night’s game against Maui High.

Na Alii responded with a 1-0 win at King Kekaulike Stadium that is crucial to their postseason hopes.

Freshman Zoe Asue broke a scoreless tie in the 50th minute on a 20-yard bending kick into the upper left-hand corner of the goal off an assist from Kamaile Kekona, who returned from missing the last five matches with a concussion.

Na Alii reached the midway point of their Maui Interscholastic League season at 3-0-3.

“We stressed that it would be so much worse if we didn’t win this match,” King Kekaulike senior sweeper and captain Mae Akinaka said. “It was really great and after the goal it was really important that we dialed it in and not allow anything else.”

King Kekaulike High School’s Darian Fernandez dribbles as Maui High’s Azita Rodrigues defends on Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

King Kekaulike High School’s Darian Fernandez dribbles as Maui High’s Azita Rodrigues defends on Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Sabers (2-1-0) pressed hard down the stretch, outshooting Na Alii 5-2 in the second half.

“This game was just as important to them as it was to us,” Akinaka said. “Every point is important from now on.”

The first half ended 0-0, but each team had chances. King Kekaulike goalkeeper Shayli Pontes stopped a penalty kick by Ocean Dudoit in the 35th minute after a handball call in the penalty area.

Pontes denied a shot by Chai Cortez, a junior who has verbally committed to the University of Oregon, in the 22nd minute. Maui High’s Azita Rodrigues fired a line-drive shot over the crossbar two minutes later, and Pontes stoned a shot by Hailee Sanchez in the 26th minute.

Na Alii’s Erynn Duquette fired just wide right in the 33rd minute, and Lyti Akinaka sent a dangerous pass into the goal area a minute later that was handled by Sabers goalkeeper Chantel Martin.

Maui High’s Ashelen Grasso battles for position for a first-half header with (from left) King Keakulike’s Alyssa Robinson, Erynn Duquette and Lyti Akinaka. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui High’s Ashelen Grasso battles for position for a first-half header with (from left) King Keakulike’s Alyssa Robinson, Erynn Duquette and Lyti Akinaka. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

King Kekaulike’s Tanisha Valdez entered in goal in the second half and was as tough to crack as Pontes. In the 55th minute, Valdez slid several feet over wet grass on the edge of the penalty box to deny Maui High’s Kiley Andricropoulos.

The Sabers’ Ashelen Grasso sent a 40-yard shot that Valdez corralled in the 64th minute, immediately after a scramble in front of the Kekaulike goal on a corner kick.

Cortez smacked a rocket shot from 30 yards away that Valdez just snared in the 67th minute.

“It was an important game for us, but I didn’t tell them that, they told us that this match is an important one,” Na Alii coach Gundi Dancil said. “So they put their minds to it and hats off to the captains — Mae Akinaka, Mia (Rose) Daly, Darian Fernandez and Lyti Akinaka.”

Rainouts have wreaked havoc with the MIL schedule, leaving the Sabers three behind Na Alii in matches played.

“We crunched the numbers for the captains and we told them, ‘Technically we have two losses,’ “ Dancil said. “They made up their minds, they said, ‘Coach, we’re going to work hard.’ “

Maui High coach Belden Bautista is in his first year after taking over for longtime Sabers coach Tony Medeiros — Bautista said Medeiros is battling heart issues and diabetes.

“He’s a legend at Maui High, he’s the only girls coach ever at Maui High since Day 1, so it’s big shoes to fill — hopefully I can fill it for him,” Bautista said. “He’s doing good, he’s getting better every day. Hopefully we can see him on the sidelines (soon).”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

MIL Standings

DIVISION I

–                            W    L    T    Pts.

King Kekaulike            3    0    3    12

Baldwin                    3    0    1    10

Kamehameha Maui    2    2    1    7

Maui High                2    1    0    6

Lahainaluna                0    4    0    0

DIVISION II

–                            W    L    T    Pts.

Seabury Hall            1    2    1    4

St. Anthony                0    2    0    0

Thursday’s Result

King Kekaulike 1, Maui High 0

Today’s Match

St. Anthony at Kamehameha Maui, 5 p.m.

Saturday’s Matches

Lahainaluna at Maui High, 2 p.m.

Baldwin vs. Seabury Hall at War Memorial Stadium, 5 p.m.

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