[ HIGH SCHOOL REPORT ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Castle High School girls soccer coach Mark Kane said Aimee Watanabe "is a player who comes around only once in 10 years."
There’s No Me
Soft-spoken senior Aimee Watanabe
lets her action do the talking for
the Castle girls soccer team
You can't blame the Castle girls soccer team for playing with a nonstop sense of urgency this season.
Team leader Aimee Watanabe's eligibility clock is ticking, after all.
"I've been telling the girls that this is your best chance to do something," Castle coach Mark Kane said. "Next year we won't have Aimee. Aimee is a player who comes around only once in 10 years.
"She is the total package," he continued. "She has all of the soccer skills, and she's a natural leader. When she steps up, everybody follows her because she's doing exactly what she needs to do. It's nice to have a good example for everybody to follow. Sometimes you have groups and factions on a team, but everyone looks up to her here. They respect her for what she's done."
These days, the only one in soccer circles not talking about the Castle senior is Watanabe herself. The co-player of the year in the Oahu Interscholastic Association's Eastern Division last season, she led the conference in scoring with 10 goals during the recently completed regular season.
While her exploits have made her the team's unofficial spokesperson, her shy nature makes being the object of a reporter's attention awkward, she admitted.
"I'm not very good at this," she smiled, in reference to interviews. "I'm on the quieter side."
"When she's on the soccer field, it's a different story," said Castle softball standout Puna Waiolama, her best friend since kindergarten. "She would never brag about herself, but she can be outgoing."
On the field, Watanabe is plainly the catalyst for a Castle team that has regarded this season as a chance to finish some unfinished business.
A year ago, Castle went into the final day of the regular season with a chance to win the East, but lost to Kahuku and fell into a second-place tie with Kalaheo, Kailua and Kaiser. They made an early exit in the OIA tournament and missed the state tournament.
The Knights fared better this year, finishing atop the East with a 9-0-1 mark.
"She's hungry to make sure that all of our potential and all of her potential are realized," said Kane.
For Watanabe, there was no direct line to becoming a leader. A solid junior season had made her a leader by example, and her unselfish nature helps her to communicate with her teammates when she serves as Castle's coach on the field.
"I've put more effort into making sure that people playing on the team are having fun on the field," she said. "In that sense, I've worked harder this year. When I was a freshman and my cousin (Jamie Watanabe) was a senior, I kind of followed her. When I watched her play, she was so quick. She could read the game so well. She had these moves that would come out of nowhere. A lot of people have helped me out on the field, and I remember how it felt, and I try to give it back to other people now that I'm a senior."
Watanabe began playing soccer at age 9, but she admits she wasn't as fluent at the game back then.
"My dad (Kevin) was athletic -- he used to run marathons -- and he introduced me to sports," she said. "He signed me up, and I'm very grateful to him. He came to every single one of my games, and he coached me for five years (in AYSO). He's been with me every step of the way. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him and my mom (Faye).
"I was really lanky when I first started," she continued. "I'd trip over my feet or the ball. But I stuck with it, and I really enjoy it. I love everything about it. I'm so excited before a game -- I get butterflies. I want to win. And I enjoy coming here every day because the team is so great. Running around chasing a ball back and forth sounds a little crazy, but it's fun. It's an outlet -- a way of expressing yourself."
She began playing for Phil Neddo and the Honolulu Bulls as an eighth-grader, but stopped after two years, only to return more focused prior to her junior year at Castle.
"I took a break, and when I went back to the Bulls, that's when I realized I needed to work a lot harder at it," she said. "I'd fallen behind when I wasn't with them. Coach Phil and Coach Kane have helped me so much. I'm thankful. They don't accept anything but the best. Soccer could be my way of going to college. It's why I've worked so hard at it. I'm hoping that my hard work pays off, but I haven't gotten any offers from the colleges I'd like to go to yet."
Said Kane: "Aimee's definitely a Division I prospect. Hopefully, the coaches will be at our state tournament and ask her."
In addition to possessing an instinctive feel for the game, Watanabe's work ethic remains one of her strengths.
"She really works at it," Waiolama said. "Even in her offseason, she's always saying, 'I have to run and get ready for soccer season.' She's always pushing herself."
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Athletes of the Week
Kenneth Ogata, Moanalua soccer: Scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Castle to clinch the OIA East Division title.
Chyanne Alejado, Kapolei soccer: Scored four goals in a win over Waipahu.
Puna Neumann and Scott Neumann, Mililani: The brothers combined for 30 points in an important OIA duel vs. Radford.
Justin Lafua, Waianae: Scored 21 points in a win over Waialua.
Nick Milan, Kaimuki: Scored 20 points in an upset victory over OIA East defending champion Kalaheo.
Sam Wilhoite, Kalaheo: Scored 26 in a loss to Kaimuki. He added 22 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over Castle.
Tristan Bailey, Campbell: Scored 20 points in a win over Waipahu.
Chris Assily, Kaiser: Led the Cougars with 21 points in a loss to Kahuku.
Brashton Satele, Word of Life: Scored 21 points in an overtime win over Hanalani.
AJ Foltz, Pearl City: Scored 20 points in a win over previously unbeaten Nanakuli.
Eric Keys, Moanalua: Scored 24 points in a victory over Farrington.
Eti Atonio, Farrington: Scored 23 in a loss to Moanalua.
Keanu Lockwood, Kaimuki: Scored 30 points in a victory over Thompson Academy.
Danton Balbas, Roosevelt: Scored 20 points in a win over Kalani.
Abel Werner, McKinley: Scored 27 points as the Tigers beat Kaiser.
Jeremiah Ostrowski, Punahou: Scored 23 points in a victory over Damien.
Ranson DeCosta, Damien: Had 29 points in a loss to Punahou.
Desmond Hanohano, Saint Louis: Scored 26 points in a loss to Mid-Pacific and 19 points in a loss to Kamehameha.
Anthony Troche and Pono Duvauchelle, Redemption Academy: Troche scored 27, while Duvauchelle added 24 in a win over Lanakila Baptist.
Kaimana Komine, Academy of the Pacific: Scored 23 in a loss to Iolani's Division II team.
Justin Casil, Damien: Scored 21 in a win over University.
Lindsey Olmstead, Punahou: Pitched a two-hitter in a win over Maryknoll.
Courtney Kessell, Kailua: Struck out 14 batters in a 1-0 victory over Roosevelt and threw a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Moanalua to keep the Surfriders undefeated.
Alicia Pada, Campbell: Hit a home run and a triple in a victory over Radford.
Anita Manuma, Kapolei: Scored the winning run on a wild pitch to give the Hurricanes a key OIA West 5-4 victory over Pearl City.
Ryuta Iihama, Pac-Five: Scored the winning goal in a key ILH game vs. Kamehameha.
Bronson Pieper, Kapolei: Scored three goals in a win over Waipahu.
R.B. Bibilone, Leilehua: Scored four goals in a win over Radford.
Jonathan Baba, Moanalua: Made several key saves in a 1-0 victory over Castle to clinch the OIA East title.
Paulo Barros, Roosevelt: Scored four times in a win over McKinley.
Keone Peiper, Pearl City: Scored three times against Campbell in a 7-0 victory.
Tobi Kanehira, Aiea: Scored three goals in a win over Waianae.
Heather Peterson, Kapolei: Scored three times in a victory over Waipahu.
Raimee Ortega and Sara Yoro, Mililani: Both scored three goals in a win over Nanakuli. Ortega added three goals in a victory over Waipahu.
Chelsea Arakawa, Pearl City: Scored three goals in a win over Campbell.
Kahanu Ah Puck, Kahuku: Scored three goals in a win over Kaimuki.
To nominate ...
To nominate an athlete of the week, contact the Star-Bulletin Sports Department by 11 p.m. Sunday: