Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, June 18, 2001


The He Kini Popo women's soccer club won the national 30 and
over championships ten years ago and reunited to try to take the
over-40 title. Above, the team held the over 30 trophy with the
hopes of bringing home a bigger one.

He Kini Popo reborn

By Al Chase

It all began as a birthday gift wish.

The He Kini Popo women's soccer team was competing in a Las Vegas Tournament last year, and Cheryl Shimizu made her wish known to her teammates.

Shimizu wanted to compete for the U.S. Veterans Cup Over-40 women's soccer title. Shimizu, who reached the qualifying age a few weeks ago, would finally be eligible for the event, which begins this week in Beckley, W. Va.

"She's the baby of the group," said Holly Lau, team manager.

The idea was intriguing because 12 of the 16 He Kini Popo players traveling East this week played for the team when it won the U.S. Over-30 national championship 10 years ago in Dallas.

"Ever since I've played with He Kini Popo, I've known about the Over-30 title," said Shimizu, who played point guard for the University of Hawaii Wahine basketball team from 1980 to 1984. "I thought we could revisit past glory and, if there was the impetus, people would want to go."

The first challenge was trying to get as many members of the 1991 team together for another title run. That job fell into Lau's lap.

Not everyone still lived on Oahu and some played for other teams. Kathy Oliver will join the team from Florida where she is a teacher and Martha Chock will fly in from Las Vegas where she works for the department of corrections.

Vacation time needed coordinating and family concerns addressed for the two travel agents, a court interpreter, a sales rep, a sports store owner, a nurse, two teachers, a college coach, a housewife, a city park director and two players who work for construction companies.

Then there was the cost, at least $1,000 each.

"We're too old to have fund-raisers,'' said Lau. "People aren't willing to buy things from old people like they do kids, but we did make some shirts and we did good money on that.

"And, none of us had ever heard of Beckley, West Virginia."

The tournament site isn't exactly on the beaten path, but Beckley is the country seat for Raleigh County. The team will fly to Washington, D.C., then drive for west for five hours over the Shenandoah Mountain Range to the south central part of West Virginia.

After saying please many times, Lau even convinced UH Wahine soccer coach Pinsoom Tenzing to coach the team as he did in 1991.

The next task was to get in shape. Or as Lau put it, better shape.

"We've been playing two games, one with our own teams and one together, every Sunday for the last six months," said Lau. "Trying to get back in shape at over 40, that was a big obstacle.

"We've come to the conclusion that, after 40, you can't really get into the shape you were once. You can kind of get up there, but you can't wake up Monday morning and spring out of bed. Actually, we don't spring out of bed until Thursday and it's not much of a spring."

There was also the adjustment to Tenzing's 5-3-2, flatback, no sweeper, zone defense unless the ball is in your area system. This is tactically different from the 4-4-2 system most of the ladies have been playing the past 20 years.

Anticipation for the trip has built since He Kini Popo beat the defending national champs, Camp Spring, Md., in the Friendship Cup in Las Vegas in April.

"The first thing they said was, 'We're missing four of five of our top players.' OK, if that's the best you're got ... whatever," said Lau. "We had so many chances in that game. We should have killed them."

Laurie Baker, a member of the 1991 team who recently took a year off from soccer, said. "Before Las Vegas, we didn't know what we would face in a national tournament. Now we know. The Camp Spring players put shoes on just like us.

"This was one of the best things for me. It forced me to get back in shape."

He Kini Popo has three pool-play matches, one Thursday, one Friday and one early Saturday. The top two teams in the two pools advance to the semifinals at 5 p.m. Saturday with the title game set for next Sunday.

The Hawaii Five-O, an over-50 women's team coached by Frank Doyle, also is entered in the tournament.

"There is such good camaraderie between us and the 50s team," said Lau. "When we were is Vegas, they were our best fans, our most vocal fans.

"We got matching shirts, except ours says over 40 and their shirt says over 50, to wear for the opening ceremony. On the front of the shirt it says 'Hawaiian soccer is' and on the back is says 'zesty.' That's how one of the ladies on the 50s team cheers for us."

All 16 women have stayed active in the sport with family life. They have a built-in fan club with 22 children and three grandchildren.

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