[ HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER ]
Knights claim state
An extra day's rest and a suave tactical move proved just barely enough for the Castle Knights to claim a state tournament berth last night.
Ethan Gonsalves scored twice -- and came up with a huge defensive play in the late going -- and Castle withstood a fierce second-half assault by Kapolei en route to a 3-2 win at gusty Mililani Stadium.
Castle (9-1-1) advanced to the semifinals of the Oahu Interscholastic Association boys soccer playoffs. Claiming a state-tournament berth didn't seem to leave the Knights overly excited, but it certainly was a relief for head coach Sabo Nakamine and his staff.
"They're not really worried about states. We're just taking this one game at a time," Nakamine said.
Kapolei (8-3), which reached the state tournament last year, isn't done yet. Because the OIA has five state tourney berths, the Hurricanes can still qualify. They need to win two games in a playoff of quarterfinal losers to earn the right to return to the state championships.
The 'Canes get their next shot at achieving that goal with a little more rest. They play the Leilehua-Mililani loser Tuesday.
"They had their chances and they put it in," Kapolei head coach Bryce Kaneshiro said. "We had our chances, and we couldn't get it in."
Indeed, despite trailing 3-1 entering the second half, the Hurricanes had possession on offense much of the time. Kapolei outshot Castle 17-11, with more than a few close calls.
The game began under a sunny sky and with 15- to 30-mph gusts. The Knights wasted little time getting on the board. Gonsalves, a junior who also excelled on the football field, knocked in a 7-yarder to give Castle a 1-0 lead just three minutes in.
Four minutes later, junior midfielder Reid Kanda connected with senior midfielder Justin Lau, who tapped the smooth pass in from 4 yards out. Castle led 2-0 before some Kapolei fans had even settled into their seats on the Ewa side of the stadium.
"We're better than that," Kaneshiro said. "Give that guy Ethan credit."
Kapolei's offense gradually found some rhythm, but Rhys Kita misfired from 15 and 20 yards out, and Kaipo Hayashida missed a tough 10-yarder .
The 'Canes finally broke the scoring drought when Kita scored on a header, a perfectly timed play off a corner pass by Curtis Kiyabu. That cut the lead to 2-1 at the 25-minute mark.
Kapolei failed to score again -- a deflected pass that glanced off the chest of Castle goalkeeper Chris Durlacher was a horrifying sight for Knight fans -- but the momentum seemed to be with the 'Canes.
Then a mini-disaster hit. On a corner pass, Kanda found Gonsalves. The junior's beautiful header found net, and Castle led 3-1 going into intermission.
"That was a killer," Kaneshiro said. "Our goalkeeper called it, clipped the ball, and our defense froze. Gotta give Castle credit. Without that goal, it would've been a different story."
Nakamine was less than thrilled. "We didn't play that well. We should've worked more ball control," he said.
Kita, a deceptively fast senior midfielder, kept attacking. He missed on a very difficult header from 20 yards out, but at the 61-minute mark, he found success.
He hustled into the right corner to grab a long pass, crossed over by a defender, and slammed in a perfect left-footed 20-yarder. His shot whizzed by the right post and just beyond the outstretched arms of Durlacher, cutting Castle's lead to 3-2.
Three more times in the next 11 minutes, Kapolei had adequate opportunities to score. On a breakaway, Kita missed from 20 yards out as the ball caromed off the crossbar. Moments later, Zachary Gaea went airborne for a header from a teammate, but his shot from deep in the box was too high over goal.
By then, Nakamine was in chess mode. "We moved Ethan to sweeper and Chris Lee moved up," he said. That switch paid off dearly. Kita had a breakaway opportunity deep in Castle territory, but Gonsalves raced out of nowhere to blast the ball out of bounds.
Kapolei didn't threaten seriously again.
"I think the game last night took a lot out of us. That was two games in less than 24 hours," Kaneshiro said of his team's first-round win Wednesday.
"Rhys is a special player. I hope we can get in states for him," Kaneshiro added. "It's a tough road ahead."
The two teams had not met in preseason or regular season, but came in with clear ideas about game plans. "We knew they were very aggressive," Castle assistant coach Mark LaChance said. "We were watching out for 10 (Kea Hashimoto), 16 (Kita) and 17 (Keanui Carmack-McKeague)."
Moments before game time, Kaneshiro implored his team to be wary of Gonsalves and Muraoka. Little did they know that Gonsalves would prove to be a key factor on defense in the final minutes.
Castle 3, Kapolei 2
Kaiser 2, Pearl City 1, 2 OT (5-4 penalty kicks)
Mililani 5, Leilehua 1
Kalaheo 1, Moanalua 0
Goal scorers--Cas: Ethan Gonzales 2, Justin Lau 1. Kapo: Rhys Kita 2. Kais:Curt Sadd 1. PC: Kyle Kurashima 1. Mil: Evan Kau 1, Justin Iha 1, Justin Ching 1, Jay Abrigo 1, Brent Murakami 1. Lei: Syd Tom 1. Kalh: Dylan Eichelberber.