DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
West Torrance didn't qualify for the quarterfinals, but their post-game cheer yesterday was loud and proud.
Lesson in aloha for California team
Local players help the short-handed group compete in the AYSO nationals
With two losses in pool play, West Torrance (Calif.) didn't qualify for yesterday afternoon's championship bracket quarterfinals.
The fact that they even had a chance is a story in itself.
In August of last year, West Torrance received an invitation to compete in the girls' 19-and-under division in this week's American Youth Soccer Organization National Games, featuring 181 teams from 16 different states, at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
Eager to compete with some of the country's best teams, the players and their families made their plane and hotel reservations well in advance.
However, that meant a lot of them booked their flights with Aloha Airlines, which went out of business March 31.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jaudana Mahoni booted the ball past Hot Wheels goalie Katie Elmore yesterday. Mahoni injured her ankle on the play and had to be taken out of the game.
Not only were their flights canceled, but the money paid for the tickets wasn't refunded, leaving many families without the means to afford another ticket to Hawaii.
"Some of them wanted to come, but it was just too expensive," said Melissa Ruiz, one of seven girls from California who ended up making the trip. "It was kind of sad because we thought none of us were going to be able to play."
Three weeks ago, William Mahoni was coaching a team from the North Shore at a tournament in Lake Tahoe when he received a phone call about West Torrance's situation.
The newly appointed head coach of the BYU-Hawaii women's soccer team was told that AYSO officials would allow the girls to team up with players from the same region in Hawaii.
"Normally, nationals wouldn't make exceptions like this," Mahoni said. "The girls (who made the trip) desperately wanted to come and I knew we didn't have the bid from our region, so I said I'd help out."
Mahoni brought four girls from the North Shore and four more from Laie to play with the seven from California.
With no practice time and without knowing each other's names, the group of 15 took the field for the first time on Thursday for their first game against Kaneohe.
"Our first game was pretty much practice," said Jaudana Mahoni. "We were pretty much like, 'Hey you, number whatever.' We didn't even know each other yet."
William Mahoni had no idea what positions the girls from California could play and where their strengths would be best utilized.
"It was a little different, but it's incredible to see how these girls have come together and ended up playing so well," Mahoni said.
West Torrance concluded the tournament with a 2-0 victory over La Mesa (Calif.) yesterday to finish with a 3-2 record.
Jaudana Mahoni scored in the second period, putting in a loose ball in front of the net, but rolled her ankle on the play and had to sit out the rest of the game.
Ruiz later punctuated the victory with a goal in the final quarter, putting in a rebound off of a shot by Kaimanaokai Carvalho.
"I know if we got a chance (to practice), we would have done so much better," Ruiz said. "There are a lot of really good girls on this team."
Even though the tournament ended early for the hybrid squad, the fun times weren't done for the visitors from California.
The team planned to hit the beach yesterday afternoon, a day after being treated to a barbecue hosted by the girls from Hawaii.
"The barbecue was a lot of fun and we really bonded," Ruiz said. "They had us try some weird things, especially this potato thing with this purple mushy stuff inside. It looked like Play-Doh. We didn't want to eat it so eventually all of (the California girls) took one bite."
The sweet potato might not have gone over well with the girls from California, but just being able to play soccer in Hawaii was sweet enough.