HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
Muraoka in the middle
High-scoring midfielder Muraoka leads Castle into the states
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Blayne Muraoka doesn't attract much attention when he is strolling through the Castle campus.
But when he steps onto the soccer field, all eyes are on the 5-foot-4 senior midfielder.
His teammates look to him for inspiration and opponents make it a point to know where he is at all times, knowing that if they lose track of him they will soon be headed to the middle of the pitch for another kickoff.
But Muraoka is learning to distribute the ball when he gets swarmed, which gives the Knights another reason for optimism heading into next week's state soccer tournament.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Blayne Muraoka is a big reason Castle is in next week's state boys soccer tournament.
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DESPITE losing its first three soccer matches of the season, Castle won eight of its last nine to garner a No. 1 seed in the OIA playoffs.
Center midfielder Blayne Muraoka was the catalyst for many of the wins, scoring 16 of the team's 27 goals in the regular season.
During his four years as a varsity starter, Muraoka has become a true leader and an inspiration to his teammates. The undersized senior, standing just 5-foot-4, has proved to his coaching staff and teammates that he is a force, and now other teams have taken notice.
He has become a marked man.
"We know other teams are marking him. In one game when he got the ball, the other team started yelling, 'No shot, no shot'," assistant coach Marc Lachance said. "He is not the biggest guy out there, but he will go hard against anybody and find a way to get around that person."
The extra defensive pressure against him has given Muraoka extra incentive. He feels he has to work harder and get his teammates involved.
"I am going to be pressured a lot and marked up all the time," Muraoka said. "I am going to have to get the ball to other players so they can do something."
Muraoka was named as one of the team captains this year by the coaching staff. The players look to him as a role model.
"Blayne is a big inspiration to the team," senior forward Curran Aquino said. "When he is on the field, everybody is confident. We feel like we got Blayne, we can win.
"Off the field, he is just regular old Blayne, but on the field, he turns it up, steps up to the leader role and talks a lot on the field."
According to head coach Sabo Nakamine, Muraoka has done a great job for the Knights as a leader on the field for the entire season. He feels Muraoka has shown the fire to win and has pushed other players to improve throughout the season.
"He is a big-time leader, he is one of the seniors who talk a lot. You can hear him everywhere on the field," junior sweeper Shane Ihara said. "He is always working hard and trying to get better and it gets everyone else pumped."
According to Ihara, Muraoka is a positive leader not only during games, but during practice as well. Ihara hopes to step into Muraoka's shoes and lead the team next year.
Muraoka displayed his leadership abilities after the team was upset in the second round of the OIA playoffs.
Muraoka scored the only goal in a 3-1 loss to Roosevelt.
The Knights were crushed after the defeat, but Muraoka, along with other seniors, talked to the rest of the team about what needed to be done before their next game.
"I was mad after we lost and I knew that our season was over if we lost the next game," Muraoka said. "I talked to the team and told them we have to pick it up and string more passes and have high pressure on the ball."
In the loser's bracket game against Kalani, Castle stepped it up and played what Muraoka considered the Knights' best game of the season.
Muraoka scored two goals, including one in overtime, and the Knights secured a spot in the state tournament.
"During the Kalani game in overtime, he made a tremendous goal that looked like a professional goal," Nakamine said. "He bent the ball so well it was unbelievable."
Muraoka's leadership and scoring ability are not the only attributes making him a weapon for the Knights. According to his coaches, Muraoka has a high soccer intelligence and plays with a great understanding of the game.
"His awareness on the field is really good," Aquino said. "Blayne knows when he is in trouble or when his teammates are in trouble and he will help them and get open for you. He will tell you where to go to give it to you."
Muraoka and the Knights are headed to the state tournament next week, where they will be getting a special treat. As a prize for qualifying for states, they'll be wearing white uniforms that they haven't worn yet this season, according to Nakamine.
Castle doesn't know who the first-round opponent will be, but Nakamine said the Knights will be ready no matter who they'll face.