The Hawaii soccer alumnae smiled in a group shot with their present-day counterparts — but were those signs of strain at the corner of their mouths?
Former Division I athletes, after all, can have the same pride they carried during their playing days. A 5-0 loss to the 2016 Rainbow Wahine on Sunday had the potential to smart quite a bit.
“They were still nice. They were saying ‘good job’ and everything, they were happy for us,” said senior co-captain Lauren Takai, who netted the last of UH’s scores with about a minute to go.
“It was great to play against the past alumnae, they’re really good,” Takai said graciously. “So we were a little intimidated by some of the players when they were introducing the lineup. ‘Oh no! It’s her! It’s her!’ But I think we did good to come together as a team and play to our abilities.”
There was no Natasha Kai this year for the alums, and combined with a flat-out better Wahine team from last year, this one was really no contest (after a few minutes, it was clear there was no way this one was going to a penalty kick shootout like in 2015).
Sonest Furtado came off the bench net two goals about a minute apart late in the first half. Addie Steiner got UH on the board in the third minute and Raisa Strom-Okimoto tacked on a score early in the second half.
Goalkeeper Monk Berger recorded four saves in the shutout (and tackled away another dangerous ball tapped back by the UH defense). Backups Alexis Mata and Evelyn Fierros were the goalkeepers for the alums, who were otherwise well-stocked with former all-WAC players like Ambree Ako, Mari Punzal and Taryn Fukuroku.
“I’m so grateful to them for keeping in touch and coming out to help us,” UH coach Michele Nagamine said. “I’m so grateful to them for keeping in touch and coming out to help us. The last competition before conference play.”
It was important that the Wahine (7-1-1) got some run in, given they last played a couple weeks ago. The Big West looms right around the corner with road games at Cal Poly (5-5-1) and UC Santa Barbara (9-1-1). That figures to be a very challenging first leg of the league schedule.
UH tried to stay fresh in the interim by subjecting its players to a boot camp run by former Wahine Lauren Ho and Brittany Lum.
“That kind of kicked our butts,” Takai said. “And then we also had weights and practice back to back. All the other Big West teams are having double games, so we’re trying to prepare for (that).”
Nagamine had a list of objectives she wanted to check off during the alumnae game. She said most, like getting some work in a 4-5-1 formation, were met.
“We wanted them to have a good time and be efficient,” Nagamine said. “And it was nice to get everybody minutes. … The pace of the game was not quite where we needed it to be. We came out on fire, got the first goal pretty early, and then we lost the rhythm after that. (Assistant coach) Mark (Fournier) brought it up at halftime and we adjusted that.
“(In the second) the rhythm was much better and the pace. We really tried to move the ball, build that familiarity again, play the 4-5-1. We checked a lot of things off today.”
Our columnist Dave Reardon was also at the game, and he weighed in (subscriber content) on the prospect of UH eventually relocating its home games to campus at a future date.