Na Alii open with victory over Sabers
Duquette scores twice as King Kekaulike wins 3-1 to begin MIL play
WAILUKU — The King Kekaulike High School girls soccer team knows how important each match is in the Maui Interscholastic League.
Na Alii sat in a state tournament spot for most of the season last year before Kamehameha Maui caught them down the stretch to claim the MIL’s second and final state berth.
King Kekaulike started its drive to avoid that from happening again with a dominant 3-1 win over Maui High in the teams’ league opener on a chilly Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
“It helps our confidence a lot, honestly,” said senior Erynn Duquette, who scored the final two goals for Na Alii. “Since we’re a young team, I feel like it will push us more to get to the top.”
King Kekaulike bounced out to a 2-0 lead in the first 14 minutes, on goals by Lyti Akinaka and Duquette. Maui High got within 2-1 on a goal by Dzana Alibigec in the 20th minute.
Duquette stole the ball in the Sabers’ defensive end in the 52nd minute and made an athletic run past the defense to score the final goal.
“That one felt good — since coach Gundi (Dancil) said, ‘Get rid of the 2-0 curse,’ I felt like we had to do it as a team,” Duquette said of her coach’s warning about giving up a lead. “I had a chance, so I took it. But I saw my teammates there in the back if there was a rebound.”
Dancil said his team does conditioning drills running stairs in King Kekaulike Stadium and then hold practice at Kulamalu Pop Warner field up the street. The field at King Kekaulike Stadium is getting artificial turf installed in a project that is set to be completed on April 3, Dancil said.
“This was a big win for us,” Dancil said. “The ladies worked hard for this. We let the ladies know that even though we’re not practicing on a big field, we’ve got to work hard and get the small games happening. That will help us.”
Maui High created several chances to close the gap. Chai Cortez hit the upper corner of the crossbar in the final minutes of the first half, Alyssa Antolin was stopped by a stellar save by King Kekaulike goalkeeper Shayli Pontes in the 69th minute and Chanelle Cortez sent a shot over the crossbar in the 78th minute.
“They are very tough,” Maui High coach Belden Bautista said of Na Alii. “First game, still a lot of season left. Last season we won our first game and it didn’t end up right, so it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com