Kai goes to China
with U.S. Under 21

Natasha Kai left Wednesday night on the trip of her life. She flew to San Francisco to join the United States Under 21 national women's soccer team that is traveling to China for several exhibition matches.

Coach Chris Petrucelli continued to be impressed with the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine sophomore striker when she attended the second team tryout camp in Carson, Calif., last month.

The camp was devoted to working in small groups, emphasizing combinations. All U-21 players are college students.

"It is a way to get the players to all think on the same level, to think the game the same way," Petrucelli said.

The combination play also was a priority at the camp.

"We could not shoot before we made a combination play, whether it was a wall pass or an overlapping play," Kai said.

On the China trip, the U.S. will employ three strikers. The only question Petrucelli had was whether to use three or four defenders.

The improvement he noted in Kai's play was a little more consistency.

"We still need more. We need her to be in tune and engaged mentally for 90 minutes," Petrucelli said. "She is in and out. She has probably been able to turn it on and off in the past. In our environment, she has to play hard for 90 minutes."

Petrucelli made sure Kai got the message.

"I've been working a lot on my cardio, lifting weights, trying to get in better shape," Kai said. "Coach also wanted me to work on my shot, to be more consistent with my finishing. So I've been practicing an extra hour each day. He told us we would only have three or four shots in a game and he wants them to go in. I just want to do good."

There are 37 players in the Under 21 pool and 35 have attended one of the two camps held earlier this year. Kai is one of 18 selected for the China trip. It is the first trip outside the United States for the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

"I'm getting real nervous right now. I'm scared because I don't know what to expect," Kai said on the eve of her departure. "I'm going to China. It will be a cultural change. The environment will be different. I guess it will hit me when I get off the plane."

The team will fly direct to Shanghai and play matches there and in Huaian City.


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --