One last nonconference stand

Raisa Strom-Okimoto dribbled while Morgan Meza defended at practice. / Photo by Craig T. Kojima, Star-Advertiser

Playing games on consecutive days to close out your nonconference schedule is not ideal, but that’s the hand the Hawaii soccer team was dealt.

UH was forced to be creative with its schedule when a team pulled out from this weekend’s Rainbow Wahine Shootout. In the new arrangement for the three-team event, visitors North Dakota State and Grand Canyon played on Thursday, and UH will play them in that order on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (5 p.m.).

(For you diehard UH fans, you should be able to catch the Wahine soccer team Saturday at Waipio Soccer Stadium then head over to Aloha Stadium for the 6 p.m. football homecoming game against Duquesne.)

These appear to be winnable games for the Wahine (3-3-1) as they look to right themselves before Big West play begins on the road next week. NDSU of the Summit League is 3-3, while GCU of the WAC is 3-8 … but with a notable 2-1 home win over regular Big West contender Cal State Fullerton.

UH’s last home game was a disappointing one, a 2-1 loss to UC San Diego, a Division II team readying to make the leap to Division I and the Big West. What followed was a 1-1 double-overtime draw at Nevada — in which center back Cristina Drossos was lost to injury — and a 2-0 loss at San Francisco in which the Wahine were outshot 26-4 (although goalkeeper Lex Mata recorded a career-high 12 saves).

“I think we took away a lot from this road trip,” senior midfielder Sarah Lau said. “It was a tough road trip, playing on two turf fields. Driving from Nevada from San Fran, it’s a lot to handle. I think overall it was like five, six hours, but we split it in half. I think in sports you’re going to lose more than you win and it builds character when you lose. You learn more about what your teammates need, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. And what you need to improve on before you got into conference.”

As to what UH has worked on, she said, “our offensive play. We’re still getting used to each other at the top and I think this week before our last two nonconference games, we’re really trying to push, getting into the attack and getting the numbers up.”

With Drossos still out, fourth-year junior Kiri Dale has been invaluable as a utility presence. She’s slid to center back until Drossos can return.

“It was really upsetting for us when Cristina went down, but luckily she doesn’t have a serious injury,” Dale said. “But you know, I just do what I have to do, fill in where the team needs me, where Coach Bud (Nagamine) thinks I work best at. So when she went down, we just made that decision, I went back there, it was fine, and we’re just going to do what we have to do until Cristina’s healthy again, and when she gets back, hopefully I’ll move up top again.”

Attacking midfielder Raisa Strom-Okimoto and forward Lei Medeiros lead the Wahine offensively with three goals apiece. They are the only players to have multiple on the season.

In the first game of the tourney, North Dakota State defeated Grand Canyon 3-2 in overtime, despite GCU outshooting NDSU 24-10. Mariah Haberle had a brace for the Bison.

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