Just For Kicks
Al Chase

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Strickland aiming
for top 20

Kelsey Baker, Rachel Lau and Mariko Strickland know where they are going to school and continue their soccer careers on the mainland this fall.

Baker has committed to Pepperdine, Lau will head East to Harvard and Strickland will join fellow Kapaa native, assistant coach Andrea Alifiler, at San Diego State.

Baker, a central defender or sweeper with state champion Punahou, considered going to Pacific in Stockton, Calif., but made a decision to end up on the California coast in Malibu.

"I'm getting more of everything that helps with the cost of college at Pepperdine," said Baker. "I really liked the school, the campus and the soccer field has this incredible view, very much like the new soccer field at Kamehameha."

She plans to major in sports medicine for a career as an athletic trainer.

Lau considered Brown and, with less intensity, most of the other Ivy League schools but gave a lot of consideration to the location of her choice.

"I looked at the areas and wanted a place where there was always something interesting to do like to go plays or concerts," said Lau. "I wanted options and Boston has that."

A central midfielder who can play up top, she will be reunited with senior Maile Tavepholjalern who played at Punahou through her sophomore season.

Strickland also was recruited by Florida, Oregon, St. Mary's and had inquires from several other coaches.

"At first I was going to Santa Clara, but it didn't work out. There were some issues," said Strickland. "Pepperdine was my second choice. Then, when I went to the Surf Cup last August and Andrea told coach Mike (Giuliano, S.D. head coach) to come watch me play.

Alfiler said, "Mariko is very skilled, very technical. She can read the game well and is a fabulous playmaker. I know her personally and she is just a wonderful young women. Her head is on straight. She puts her time in at school. Mariko made her official visit last October and when she met our girls, they were so impressed. She made friends instantly."

"Andrea is like my big sister. She likes the same sports, surfing, basketball and soccer, that I do. People think I'm going to San Diego State because of her, but that's not true. She told me that whatever decision I made, she just wanted me to be happy," said Strickland, a center midfielder.

"I really liked coach Mike's coaching philosophy. He is a genuine person. He shared his ambitions and goals for the program, to have a top 20 program. He was so confident and he's coached national age-group players I know.

"I've always been an underdog all my life. When you are from Hawaii and go to the mainland you are always the underdog. Maybe I'm meant to help turn the program around. That would be so much more meaningful than going to a program that was in the top 20."

San Diego State was one match away from the Mountain West Conference regular-season title, then lost the conference tournament championship match to Utah on penalty kicks.

"You are going to be hearing about this program in the next couple of years. We'll be in the top 20," said Alfiler.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Just for Kicks runs every other Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. Al Chase can be reached at achase@starbulletin.com.

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