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Senior Spotlight: Arakawa looking foward to next level

Na Alii standout hopes to get a few games in with teammates before heading to South Dakota State

King Kekaulike High School’s Teani Arakawa leaps over the defense of Seabury Hall’s Jacqui Swartz while advancing the ball during an MIL game on Dec. 28, 2019. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Senior Spotlight is a special series highlighting standout MIL student-athletes in fall and winter sports as they reflect upon their high school careers and look toward the future. Stories will run periodically in The Maui News.

Her career for the King Kekaulike High School girls soccer program ended abruptly, but what a run it was.

Teani Arakawa did just about everything for Na Alii in her three seasons with the program, a career that led her to sign with South Dakota State University in November to continue playing soccer.

Na Alii won three straight Maui Interscholastic League titles and got better at the state tournament each time they had Arakawa on the roster.

When Arakawa was a freshman, Na Alii lost their first match at state 4-1 to Kaiser in the quarterfinals. As a sophomore, Arakawa and her team got to the state semifinals, where they lost 6-0 Kamehameha Kapalama. Last season, they made it all the way to the school’s first state girls final that ended in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Kapalama.

Teani Arakawa fends off a Kamehameha Kapalama player in the state championship game Feb. 8, 2020. — PARISH KALEIWAHEA photo

“From freshman year, my class now, we’ve worked really hard to accomplish the MIL titles each year and this past year, each year of being able go to states, we’ve gotten farther than the year before,” Arakawa said. “So, it’s really an awesome thing to have and remember.”

Last week, her final hopes for a senior season were wiped out when the MIL called off the seasons for all fall and winter sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the season is being canceled, now I’m just looking forward to get ready to start training for when I go to college,” Arakawa said. “So, I’m just looking to the next level already.”

The individual accolades she gained put her right at the top of an impressive list of players ever to wear the teal and black: A two-time MIL Player of the Year selection by The Maui News, Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2019-20, State Offensive Player of the Year by scoringlive.com in 2019-20, first team all-state by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2019-20.

Following Bailey Massenburg (cross country, 2008-09), Arakawa is just the Upcountry school’s second Gatorade selectee ever.

When asked if she and her team left a legacy at the Upcountry school, Arakawa said, “I’d say so, yeah, because of the MIL titles and my honors that I’ve gotten.”

There are also efforts underway to organize a Hawaii Youth Soccer Association season on Maui that would include a team basically made up of the King Kekaulike roster.

“Yeah, being able to be close by everyone for one last time would be an honor, honestly,” Arakawa said. “It’s already been three years, and at least being able to be close again for a little while would be good, good to be with everybody else.”

The HYSA team from King Kekaulike is already holding training sessions together, easing the pain of the news from last week.

“I just have to look forward and start training for the next level,” Arakawa said. “I would say that if we can play, that would be great for me and everyone else, especially everyone else because they will hopefully be able to have a (high school) season next year.”

While Arakawa is all about team when she is on the pitch, she knows that games would help her be ready to play for the SDSU program that annually contends for Summit League titles. The Jackrabbits finished 15-5-2 in 2019, losing 1-0 to No. 3 seed Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Veteran King Kekaulike coach Gundi Dancil sees only a bright future for the 5-foot-1 Arakawa, who has played all over the field during her prep career, most recently at center midfield.

“I think in the college ranks, with the caliber of players that college will draw, and with what their ranking was last year, I’m sure that she’ll fit right in and it will be a new and better challenge for her,” Dancil said.

Ken Hayo, an assistant with Dancil for more than 25 years at King Kekaulike, noted that Arakawa played the entire state tournament last season with a heavily wrapped right upper leg.

“She was Gatorade State Player of the Year as a junior, offensive player of the year (for scoringlive.com) and she played most of the state tournament hurt,” Hayo said. “They still picked her out over everybody in that tournament while she was hurt, so you can figure that if she was at full strength during the tournament how impressive she would have been.”

Both coaches emphasized that Arakawa helped her teammates get better.

“What really shined to me about her, for her it’s all about the team,” Hayo said. “It seems to me that she was always willing to do what was necessary for the team to be successful. Like, if we were losing 1-0 we would dig deep and put it on her shoulders to bring the team up to the level they need to be.”

The soft-spoken Arakawa was an impressive team captain, both coaches said.

“That attitude I think inspires the same kind of attitude and drive in your teammates,” Hayo said. “So, she was an exceptional captain even though she might not have spoken it always, her actions dictated her leadership.”

Arakawa knows how good her team would have been this season.

“I know everyone would have wanted another MIL title, so myself and my team would probably work our way up and work hard to try and gain that title,” she said. “We would have really wanted, I would have really wanted to go up to states and try to accomplish winning states. So, that’s the bummer part for me and everyone else.”

The Jackrabbits were the only NCAA Division I program to offer Arakawa a scholarship. Her only other offer came from Hawaii-Hilo.

“I didn’t go to them about anything,” Arakawa said of the SDSU program. “I set up a Twitter page, posted soccer highlights on there and I guess they found my Twitter and contacted me. They saw my website that I made for myself and that’s how they contacted me.”

She has not visited the school yet, though she has been in touch with two Waipahu players on the roster.

“I am really excited about going there, it will be a new experience for me, especially the weather, a new group of girls that I will be playing with and learning their coaching style,” Arakawa said. “It will be a really good experience.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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