HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mililani's Stephanie Yoro elevated over Pearl City's Katie Scarlett Marquardson last night.
Trojans tie up Chargers, capture OIA West crown
The annual regular-season showdown between perennial OIA West Division powers Mililani and Pearl City last night was truly a tale of two halves.
The host Trojans stormed back from a 2-0 first-half deficit to tie the Chargers 3-3 behind a pair of second-half scores from Allison Kagawa. With the tie, Mililani clinches the regular-season division title and the West's top seed in the upcoming OIA tournament.
"We knew we had to capitalize on all of our opportunities," Mililani coach Ray Akiona said. "Against a good team like Pearl City, you don't get too many chances to get back into the game, but we were able to fight back."
Pearl City (8-2-1) took charge of the match early, using well-timed flank attacks, precise combination passing and dangerous long balls into the drop zone behind the Mililani back line to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
The Chargers drew first blood early. Kaitlyn Holt and Meghan Fuller connected to set Bethany Gallarde up for her 11th score of the season.
Holt began the scoring play by centering the ball to Fuller from the left flank. Fuller then turned and slotted a perfectly placed pass to a cutting Gallarde, who one-timed a soft, looping shot over the on-rushing keeper.
Pearl City found the back of the net again in the 21st minute on a penalty kick by Nestle Yamaguchi. The Chargers earned the free shot when Holt was taken down from behind by a Mililani defender inside the penalty box on a throw-in. Yamaguchi calmly rolled her penalty shot to the lower right hand corner of the net to give Pearl City what seemed to be a controlling lead.
Mililani came out of the intermission very determined, playing a much more physical brand of defense that saw them apply constant pressure on Pearl City.
"(After) halftime we basically knew that we had to play our own game," Kagawa said. "Our game is based on passing to feet and finding open spaces. In the first half, we got behind quick and played too many long, direct balls."
The Trojans used that relentless pressure on the ball to notch their first score in the 43rd minute, when Jasmine Pratt surprised the Chargers with an unorthodox goal. With Pearl City keeper Tiyana Arakaki just about to put her hands on a loose ball about 3 yards away from the goal line, Pratt sped in and slid into the ball, shooting it into the back of the net.
"That goal changed the complexion of the game," said Pearl City co-head coach Frank Baumholtz. "We thought our keeper had her hands on it, but the ref didn't see it that way. But all in all, it was a great game."
Mililani evened the score just 2 minutes later, when Kagawa sent a lofted ball toward goal from the right flank. Kagawa's shot floated high and over the head of Arakaki, scraping the back of the net as it settled into the goal.
Pearl City pulled back ahead in the 69th minute, when Fuller scored off a cross from Erika Kim Seu.
Another Kagawa goal with less than 10 minutes to play drew Mililani even once again. Kagawa's second score came off a driven right-footed shot of a direct kick opportunity.
"I was just trying to relax," said Kagawa of her second goal. "I knew what was on the line, but we work so much on direct kicks in practice, and all I was thinking about was taking practice into the game."
Mililani wraps up the regular season against Kapolei next week, while Pearl City will face Leilehua before heading into the postseason.
"This was a great game," Akiona said. "It's one of those games that I think the spectators enjoyed it as much as the players, and that's always fun. But we still have another game left against a good Kapolei team. We're gonna work hard to prepare for that and worry about the playoffs after that."