Na Alii secure first MIL title since 2007

Warriors also headed to state tournament after 2-2 draw

Lyti Akinaka of King Kekaulike High School hugs goal-scorer Erynn Duquette as Savanna Valdez looks on during the first half of Na Alii’s 2-2 draw with Kamehameha Maui on Saturday at Kanaiaupuni Stadium. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

PUKALANI — The seniors on the King Kekaulike High School girls soccer team were 6 or 7 years old the last time Na Alii won the Maui Interscholastic League title.

Na Alii made sure a title drought that dated back to 2007 ended in a hard-fought 2-2 tie with Kamehameha Maui on Saturday night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.

Na Alii had previously clinched their first state tournament berth since 2013, but now they go to state as MIL champions.

“It felt so amazing, we’ve been trying for this championship since my freshman year and to finally win it felt amazing,” said senior King Kekaulike sweeper Mia Rose Daly. “I was 7 years old the last time this happened. It feels great. They played amazing and I think this whole entire week we’ve been pushing hard and playing our best.”

Daly started the season as a midfielder, but she moved back to the main defender.

King Kekaulike’s Lyti Akinaka and Kamehameha Maui’s Sofia Stupplebeen compete for a first-half ball Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We brought it here out on the field and to come out with a tie and to win the championship feels amazing,” Daly said.

Gundi Dancil has been the King Kekaulike head coach since the school opened in 1995. He said the school’s fourth title may be the sweetest.

“For the ladies, we talked about this: It was just a matter of time before they started believing in themselves,” Dancil said. “They had it, we were there close freshman year. Sophomore, junior they were really close as far as getting into the state tournament. And also at one time for the MIL.

“What really inspired us was the later part of the year they started to believe: ‘Yeah, we can do it.’ They really started to push and we as coaches, we’re very proud of them.”

Combined with Baldwin’s loss to Maui High, the result Upcountry also clinched second place and a state berth for the Warriors. When the final whistle blew in their match and they were told of Maui High’s 2-0 win over the three-time defending MIL champion Bears, the Warriors rejoiced like they had won the title themselves.

Na Alii’s Erynn Duquette controls the ball alongside the Warriors’ Faith Bonacorsi. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“It definitely feels like a win,” said Kamehameha senior Kailani Kealoha moments before she celebrated senior night with six other classmates. “I’m so proud of my teammates — I couldn’t have done anything without them.”

Na Alii took control early with a pair of goals in a three-minute span. Erynn Duquette scored in the 15th minute and Zoe Asue made it 2-0 in he 17th minute.

The Warriors battled back to tie the score with goals wrapped around halftime. Kayla Tuitele scored in the 35th minute and Kamahie Samudio tied it in the 44th minute.

“I was thinking: ‘Never give up’ because I watched the NCAA college tournament and UCLA was down 2-0 (in the final) and then they came up and then they tied it, so we just pushed and persevered,” Kealoha said.

Kamehameha Maui’s Ilihia Keawekane had a stellar chance in the 69th minute when she broke free for a header on the run in front of all the King Kekaulike defense with the exception of goalkeeper Shayli Pontes.

Pontes came out to challenge Keawekane, who bumped the ball past Pontes, but it hit the right goalpost and bounced harmlessly away.

“I thought: ‘Oh my gosh, she cannot score this, we need this,’ “ Daly said. “I was just rushing back to the ball to try and get it out as fast as I could.”

Kamehameha coach Brandon Kotter said the result will propel the Warriors into the state tournament — they host a first-round match against a team to be determined on Feb. 5.

“We showed our mettle tonight in terms of how hard we can play and what it takes to take it to the next level,” Kotter said. “Two, it’s nice to take that momentum going into states now.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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FINAL MIL STANDINGS

GIRLS

DIVISION I

W L T Pts

x-King Kekaulike 7 1 2 23

y-Kamehameha Maui 6 2 2 20

Baldwin 5 2 3 18

Maui High 6 4 0 18

Lahainaluna 0 10 0 0

DIVISION II

W L T Pts

x-Seabury Hall 2 7 1 7

x-clinched championship

y-clinched state tournament berth

Saturday’s Results

Seabury Hall 3, Lahainaluna 1

Maui High 2, Baldwin 0

King Kekaulike 2, Kamehameha Maui 2, tie

End of regular season

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