Kapisi takes on the world

Maui High graduate to represent U.S. when BYU goes to World University Games

Keone Kapisi and the Brigham Young University men’s soccer team will the be the U.S. representative at the World University Games next month in Chinese Taipei. The U.S. faces Italy, Brazil and Russia in pool play. Rachel Annabella Photography / RACHEL COX photo

It took Keone Kapisi three tries to make the Brigham Young University men’s club soccer roster.

Now, the 2012 Maui High School graduate has the chance to represent the United States in next month’s World University Games in Chinese Taipei — the BYU team was selected in March as the country’s representative.

“I’m really excited,” the 21-year-old defender said last month. “I mean, obviously you dream big, but I never imagined being able to do that, wear ‘USA’ on my shirt. It’s a little different from the national team, but just the fact that I could represent the U.S. I’m the only player on the team from Hawaii, so I can represent Hawaii as well. I feel so blessed.”

The soccer competition is scheduled for Aug. 18-29.

“It’s going to be fun playing overseas, too,” said Kapisi, who went on a two-year church mission to El Salvador and Belize after his freshman year. “Just to see the different cultures and the way people play, the different styles teams bring to the table will be really interesting and fun.”

Keone Kapisi played for the Samoa national team at the Oceanic Cup last year in Papua New Guinea. Rachel Annabella Photography / RACHEL COX photo

The BYU team is available for Taipei because it plays not in the NCAA, but in the Premier Development League — an organization sponsored by the United Soccer League that includes several under-23 teams from Major League Soccer organizations and will finish its season before the University Games.

The U.S. squad will face Italy, Brazil and Russia in pool play.

“I mean, it’s the pool of death, I don’t know,” Kapisi said. “We’ll have to see the teams. It’s kind of hard to predict. Maybe the country is good, but we don’t know how good the team they’re sending will be, but we think that they all must be pretty good.”

Kapisi played for the Samoa national team in Papua New Guinea in last year’s Oceanic Cup, the second round of World Cup qualifying. Samoa lost to Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

“That was a real cool experience and even though we didn’t do so well in the tournament, I just loved it,” he said. “Being with the team, there’s nothing better than just that camaraderie. I’m so lucky that I got to represent that, but then I also get to represent the U.S. in a way.”

Kapisi has one assist for BYU, which is 4-3-4 after Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids U-23 team and has three games left on the schedule.

“I think we’re in a great position because we are just coming off of our season,” Kapisi said. “So hopefully we’re firing on all cylinders. We’ve had a great start to our season, so hopefully we keep building on that and we’re at peak performance at that time.”

To help defray the travel costs for the games, team members are raising funds online. Kapisi’s link can be found at tinyurl.com/ycqwny5s.

Kapisi said the support from Maui County friends has been “so humbling and overwhelming. It comes in a lot of ways. I just always feel the love of our community and the bond.”

Kapisi has a cumulative GPA of 3.85, and has been accepted into BYU’s masters accounting program. He has two more years of schooling in Provo, and is eligible for two more PDL seasons.

“None of the players on our team get scholarships,” he said. “We just do it for the love of the game and the love of playing together. It is cool to be part of a program where we’re very competitive. We’re a very good team for soccer, but we’re also very focused on school.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.