Lady Falcons prepare for state soccer championship this week
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kalani sophomore Kayla Chinen uses her head — literally — to intercept the ball in a recent game against Castle. Photo by Byron Lee, email@example.com.