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Friday, September 10, 2004



[ WAHINE SOCCER ]


art
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Team captain Kalena Eaton has developed into one of UH coach Pinsoom Tenzing's secret weapons in her final campaign.


UH’s Eaton chases
pain away


Kalena Eaton has dealt with doubts during her five-year career with the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine soccer program, but does not regret any decisions she has made since graduating from Baldwin High School.

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Classic

Schedule: Today, Duke vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m. Tomorrow, Long Beach State vs. Duke, 7 p.m. Monday, Hawaii vs. Long Beach State, 5 p.m.

Where: Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park Stadium

Radio/TV: None.

Admission/Parking: Free.

Series record: UH is playing Duke for the first time. The Wahine lead Long Beach State 1-0-1.

Last meeting: The Wahine won 1-0 at Long Beach last year.

Notes: Senior midfielder Joelle Sugai has started a school-record 65 consecutive matches for the Wahine. ... Hawaii is 5-0-5 in its last 10 overtime matches. ... Natasha Kai is 13 shots away from breaking the school career record of 240. ... After picking up three wins on the road, goalkeeper Mahie Atay holds the school career record for victories (22), surpassing Demarre Sanchez (21).

She had immediate success as a freshman in 2000, playing in all 20 matches, starting 17. Her first collegiate goal was a game-winner against Northern Arizona in the third match of the season.

The following spring she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and had surgery. Recovered, Eaton saw action in the first five matches of 2001 before tearing her medial collateral ligament, again in her right knee.

Two surgeries in eight months had Eaton wondering.

"When I was doing therapy for the second time, the rehab and recovery were just that much longer. It took a year and a half," said Eaton. "After practice, there were days it just seemed not worth it.

"I had to evaluate what was more important, my health or playing. I decided I wanted to finish off my years here. Last year was the first time I was really feeling myself again.

"I'm happy I decided to play, but now I don't know what it will be like after my senior year when there is no more soccer."

The senior midfielder also played volleyball and ran track (fifth in the state in the 100-meter high hurdles and 300-meter low hurdles) in high school. Her new sporting interest is surfing or just getting in the water and swimming laps.

Eaton played in every match last year, but her role changed to that of key reserve, a situation that continued this year.

"Kalena is highly respected by anyone who has anything to do with her. Her teammates elected her captain," said UH coach Pinsoom Tenzing.

"She is not seeing much playing time this year because I have a lot of midfielders who are blossoming. That is unfortunate because this is Kalena's fifth year. She hasn't used her captain's status to negotiate more playing time. She has been very noble about it."

Eaton trained on her own at night last summer, necessitated by holding down two jobs. She was a county lifeguard on the weekends in Kihei and worked with intermediate and high school students as an activities assistant with the Youth Bank program.

"This was my best summer ever. Even working two jobs and being tired, it was very rewarding for me," she said.

Eaton simply does the best she can when she gets playing time, although she says it is hard not being on the field as much as she would like.

"All I can do is work hard at practice and hope the coach sees a need that I can fill," Eaton said.

She was recruited by San Francisco, San Diego and Hawaii Pacific and made a verbal commitment to USF, but a chain of events led to a reversal of that decision.

"My dad (Cleighton) was helping with ODP (Olympic Development Program) the spring of my senior year and brought me with him to Oahu. Michele Nagamine, the Kamehameha girls coach, spoke to Pinsoom about me," said Eaton. "After state track I made a recruiting visit to Hawaii and never made one to USF.

"My dad said it was up to me. When it was time to pack for USF, I decided to stay home. I wanted to see my sister (Keo) grow up. She was just starting her freshman year in high school."

Eaton, majoring in family resources, will be the first one in her family to earn a college degree when she graduates next spring.

"It feels good to graduate in the same year my (athletic) eligibility is over. It keeps me balanced in school," said Eaton, who plans to pursue a masters degree and eventually become a high school counselor.

"I know I had to work hard for my scholarship. It wasn't handed to me. I want to thank my teaches and coaches for supporting me."

When asked about career highlights, Eaton said, "It's that my strongest friends are on this team. We have similar goals and also just the experience of playing here in Hawaii in front of my family, representing Hawaii and Maui."

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