Michele Nagamine was pretty sure that at one point Friday night, all eight of her freshmen who saw action did so at the same time.
Eight freshmen playing eight of 10 field positions. In other words, let the learning commence.
UH absorbed a lesson or two from No. 11 Texas A&M, which pounced on an early UH mistake between the UH defense and goalkeeper Lex Mata, and followed it up with some sublime goals to dominate the result, 4-0.
But the freshmen. There were freshmen everywhere. It was a combination of a large UH graduating class after the 2017 season, plus a chunk of of early player defections, plus a couple of season-ending injuries from the spring.
And yet, the Wahine came out with a ton of energy and nearly attained a goal and an early lead. A couple minutes into the game, UH connected well and Daelenn Tokunaga, who at this time last year was just starting her senior year at Pearl City, caught the Aggies’ defense flat-footed with a flicked shot that beat the goalkeeper … and went just wide.
It was like the youthful Wahine didn’t know any better.
Not long after, UH made its unforced error in the back and Brittany Crabtree pounced for the first of her two goals. The Wahine were in stop-the-bleeding mode from there.
Nagamine started three freshmen in the back line — Natalie Dixon, Natalie Daub and Elena Palacios. All three went the distance, as did sophomore center back Cristina Drossos. That probably won’t always be the case, though, as UH missed defenders Taylor Mason and Kiri Dale due to short-term injuries.
UH resumes at 5 pm. Sunday against Bowling Green (0-0-1), which tied Loyola Marymount 1-1 in 2OT preceding the UH-TAMU game. The Wahine have to hope they have senior co-captain Raisa Strom-Okimoto at close to full health; she banged shins with an Aggies player on a forceful kick that left her temporarily immobile. The do-everything attacking midfielder came out, but later returned.
After Friday’s match, the usual horde of youth players swarmed the field for autographs from Nagamine and her team.