Lady Fal­cons pre­pare for state soc­cer cham­pi­onship this week

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK DANILEWICZ

AsMichelle Richardson-De Almeida pre­pares her Kalani girls’ soc­cer team for this week’s JN Au­to­mo­tive Divi­sion I State Soc­cer Cham­pi­onships, she can’t help but think of the Fal­cons as gen­er­al­ists rather than spe­cial­ists.

That’s a good thing, to hear her tell it.

“It’s a well-rounded team with a lot of ver­sa­tile play­ers,” said Richardson-De Almeida. “That’s been our strength. It’s not al­ways our scor­er­swho are the foun­da­tion of our team. Our 11 starters have re­ally jelled, which has also been an im­por­tant fac­tor.”

In­deed, if any­thing, the Fal­cons have been a team to date that has re­lied on their at­ten­tion to de­tail. Kalani’s abil­ity to stay the course in prac­tice day-to-day has paid off in a big way, as they took an 11-1-1 over­all record into last Thurs­day’s OIA Tour­na­ment semi­fi­nal with Kapolei. The Fal­cons went 101-1 in the OIA Red East Con­fer­ence this sea­son to win the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle, los­ing only to Kahuku to go with a tie with ri­val Kaiser.

“They’ve put the work in — they’ve worked on all as­pects of their play that they need to be suc­cess­ful. They’ve been will­ing to work on our weak­nesses ev­ery week. Of­ten, they want to work on the things they’re strong on. That has been a real con­trib­u­tor (to the team’s suc­cess).”

Richardson-De Almeida also pointed to the lead­er­ship the Fal­cons have re­ceived from their four cap­tains: se­niors Jes­sica Prince, Amanda Kobayashi, An­drea Aguirre and ju­nior Ar­den Ma­tro.

“They were all elected by the team as on and off the field leaders,” said Richardson-De Almeida, who is a for­mer col­lege soc­cer stand­out at Saint Mary’s Col­lege and a for­mer head high school coach at highly re­garded Cam­polindo High School in Orinda, Calif.

As the only ju­nior among the cap­tains, Ma­tro has fig­ured big in Kalani’s suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to her coach.

“She’s not flashy, but she’s strong and con­sis­tent — those are the kind of play­ers you need. Our ju­niors have ma­tured in their play and have been a nice foun­da­tion for us.”

Al­though not a cap­tain, Court­ney Oshiro also has had a big im­pact for the Fal­cons as their play­maker on the of­fen­sive end, lead­ing her team in as­sists in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“Court­ney can play any­where we put her,” Richardson-De Almeida said. “She has a solid foun­da­tion of skill, and she’s pas­sion­ate about the game. She’s also stronger than she ap­pears.”

Prince is a sweeper, Kobayashi an out­side full­back and Aguirre plays in the mid­dle. All have taken to Kalani’s ap­proach.

“We con­cen­trate mostly on the girls pos­sess­ing the ball and be­ing able to play through,” said Richardson-De Almeida, who is as­sisted by coach Con­nor Whit­taker.

Kalani’s bal­ance, of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, is ev­i­dent in their statis­tics. The Fal­cons’ 38 goals dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son was ex­ceeded only by sec­ond-place Moanalua (40) and Red West Cham­pion Mililani (56). De­fen­sively, Kalani gave up just six goals, which tied them for fourthbest over­all among OIA Divi­sion I schools with Kapolei. Only Mililani (two) and Moanalua (five) fared bet­ter.

The Fal­cons are hop­ing to ben­e­fit from their bal­ance once again at this week’s JN Au­to­mo­tive State Tour­na­ment. Pair­ings for the tour­na­ment, which runs Wed­nes­day through Satur­day at the Wai­pio Penin­sula Soc­cer Park, were to be an­nounced over the week­end.

“Play is faster (at the state tour­na­ment),” Richard­sonDe Almeida said.“Our in­ten­sity and pace of play will have to pick up. We have to re­al­ize our full po­ten­tial, and I be­lieve that we can.”

Con­tact Jack Danilewicz at Jack­ster.1969@ya­hoo.com.

Kalani sopho­more Kayla Chi­nen uses her head — lit­er­ally — to in­ter­cept the ball in a re­cent game against Cas­tle. Photo by By­ron Lee, by­ron­lee@mid­week.com.

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