Full 2018 soccer preview

The UH soccer team after a preseason workout at Waialua High School. / Photo courtesy Michele Nagamine, UH

The Hawaii soccer team opens its season in challenging fashion tonight against No. 11 Texas A&M in the Outrigger Soccer Kickoff.

UH (6-10-1, 1-6-1 Big West) finished last place last year and is pegged by the league’s coaches to do so again this year. UH is young, with 10 freshmen. And UH has a smaller roster of a available players than usual, in part because of some injuries from the spring.

But it’s a clean slate.

Sophomore defender Cristina Drossos quoted a saying (ostensibly an African proverb) at practice this week: “‘If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I think that’s a good quote for our team this year.”

Tonight’s game is the first event of the 2018-19 UH athletic calendar. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., with a preceding game between Loyola Marymount and Bowling Green at 4:30. UH plays Bowling Green at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Here’s a free link to what ran in Friday’s print edition of the Star-Advertiser.

And below is a more detailed look, by position, at what’s in store for UH this season.

Returnees: #26 Tia Furuta (Jr), #18 Leialoha Medeiros (So)
Gains: #10 Daelenn Tokunaga (Fr); #21 Claire Jo Diede (Fr)
Losses: #8 Sonest Furtado (4 years); #28 Kellsie Gleason (3 years)
Summary: Furtado, with seven goals and four assists last season, accounted for about half of her team’s scoring. That’s a big loss. So, too, was losing Furuta for the season with an ACL injury in the spring. The young trio of Medeiros, Tokunaga and Diede will get the run up top, two at a time, to begin the season. Tokunaga, a two-time state champ out of Pearl City, is the only local member of the freshman class. Medeiros, a member of the Big West All-Freshman team, had a goal against UC Irvine last year. She will switch between forward and attacking mid.
Michele Nagamine: “You know, when you lose somebody like a Sonest Furtado, in the spring we were trying to figure out, how do you replace that kind of production up top? And Tia Furuta was right there. Unfortunately, due to her knee injury in spring. Tia had pretty much locked down one of the forward positions because she’d become such a prolific goal scorer. Tia had definitely emerged as our leading scorer, but the good news is we’re going to have her for an extra year down the line. … With Tia out, we look at Daelenn Tokunaga, (who’s) got another level. There’s a huge upside to her with her pace and her size. Daelenn has proven herself; she had 80 goals over her high school career. That says a lot about her. Her off-the-ball movement is really starting to get good. She’s engaged, she wants to learn, does all her fitness tests. I’m really proud of Daelenn for coming in at the level that she did. … With Lei Medeiros and CJ Diede, they’re both very different types of players. CJ is the consummate post-up forward. She’s got great size (5-8), she can hold the ball and lay it off, and has a wicked shot. Lei Medeiros … has made so many strides, has improved by leaps and bounds. Her off-the-ball movement is money, she’s one of the best at finding pockets of space. And she can finish.”

Returnees: #5 Sarah Lau (Sr); #20 Raisa Strom-Okimoto (Sr); #17 Mikaelah Johnson-Griggs (Jr); #15 Izzy Deutsch (So)
Gains: #23 Jenna Williams (So); #6 Madison Moore (Jr); #9 McKenzie Moore (Fr); #16 Morgan Meza (Fr)
Losses: #10 Spenser Jaye (4 years); #3 Lillie French (2 years); #9 Keala Parker-Lee (3 years); #22 Kylie Wolfe (2 years); #6 Randi Fontes (1 year)
Summary: Easily the most experienced unit on the team this year. Strom-Okimoto, the two-time All-Big West first teamer, will look to score and create from her attacking mid position. She’s the leading returning producer, with three goals and two assists in 2017. The 5-10 Lau, with four career goals, will be looked to for more on the wing in her final season. Deutsch will man the other wing and Johnson-Griggs is the holding mid, with Meza backing her up. UH lost some depth at this position, especially French (now at Boise State) and Parker-Lee, so Williams and McKenzie Moore will look to fill in. Madison Moore, a Kauai native who transferred from Long Beach State, must sit out a season.
Michele Nagamine: “I think Mikaelah’s going to have one of those breakout seasons. She’s very fit, has studied her role and knows what she’s supposed to be doing. … Sarah and Izzy both came in really, really fit and can run for days. So what we’re looking to do with them is kind of get a little more detailed in the kind of runs we want to make, the kind of balls they service from the flank, and also their 1v1 ability, which is probably their most important role of their position. Get behind defenders and get crosses off. … Raisa is the general and kind of dictates the pace and tempo of our team. She’s so, so fit and so determined. Sometimes I watch her and just get goosebumps, because some of the things she does, I hope it translates into big things for her when we actually play in games, because in training she’s off the charts.”

Returnees: #2 Cristina Drossos (So); #13 Kiri Dale (Jr); #12 Taylor Mason (So); #19 Sadie Lutz (So)
Gains: #4 Natalie Dixon (Fr); #7 Natalie Daub (Fr); #8 Elena Palacios (Fr); #14 Kayla Ryan (Fr)
Losses: #24 Paige Okazaki (4 years); #7 Dani Crawford (4 years); #11 Bo Samson (2 years); #16 Sammi Walker (2 years); #23 Taylor Rusnak (1 year); #27 Tanna Tuinei (1 year)
Summary: A few graduations combined with some early departures means almost a wholesale change on the back line. Drossos, back from a knee injury her freshman year, is the de facto veteran of the group at center back. Mason and Dale have some experience (Dale, a utility player, can play all over), but start the season banged up. Lutz was UH’s other ACL casualty from the spring. So, that means UH will start three freshman on the back line to start things off. Yikes. Drossos is joined at center back by the 5-10 Palacios, who’s tied with Sarah Lau as the tallest player on the team. Dixon and Daub will get early looks as the outer backs, while Ryan will likely get lots of time off the bench, either at defender or mid.
Michele Nagamine: “Elena’s 5-10, she’s got some good size, she’s smart, she is a good communicator. That’s what I like about our freshman class. They are just so willing to do whatever it takes for us to be successful. Some of them understand that they may not be a starting position, but they’ve done the math — we got a smart team, we got the highest GPA of UH athletics — we’re not stupid. They’re saying, ‘hey, we got 17 field players, (10) playing at one time … I’m playing this year!’ But I gotta keep it real, by saying ‘don’t you think for one second that I’m going to play you or take you on a road trip just because of the numbers. You need to bust it, and bring it every single day, and if you don’t I’m going to leave you home.’ So we’ve all been very, very honest with each other.”

Returnees: #1 Alexis Mata (Jr)
Gains: #11 Lauren Marquez (Fr); #24 Kailey Meyer (Fr)
Losses: #30 Evelyn Fierros (2 years); #31 Marin McGhee (1 year)
Summary: The athletic Mata has this position on lock. In her first real season of action, she played essentially every minute of every game last year (minus a few that the graduating Fierros played on senior night), and won back-to-back Big West defensive player of the week honors during nonconference play. Now she’s a co-captain, along with Raisa Strom-Okimoto. Marquez is the No. 2 keeper, and can play the field if necessary if UH’s low numbers become perilous. Meyer has impressed the coaches and is another option if necessary.
Michele Nagamine: “Lex, after the spring that she had, she’s worked her butt off. She’s very confident. She has really emerged as one of the leaders of the team. She and Raisa basically kind of marched the team into the spring season. It’s nice to see that level of confidence from her, and Lex has more than earned that starting position. Last year when she took over the reins from Monk Berger, she had about 90 minutes of playing time under her belt. She came out … and kept us in so many games. But despite all the success that she had, Lex is not close to satisfied with what happened last year.”