FINAL: Hawaii came up with a huge road victory in a wild, hostile match, 3-2 at UC Davis. The Rainbow Wahine had to rally from down 2-1 with 34 minutes left when Davis’ Janae Gonzalez put in her second penalty-kick goal of the match, and Kayla Ryan delivered with her team-best sixth and seventh goals of the season on set-ups by teammates.
“To be perfectly honest, I was just really impressed with the team and their composure and their mental toughness,” coach Michele Nagamine said in a postgame phone interview. It was such a physical game, and to get on the board first, and … to have that mental toughness to battle back from two penalty kicks, I just thought the kids responded really, really well. They never lost their focus. They kept fighting and battling for everything. We didn’t have the slow start we usually have, so I was very proud of them for that.”
UH (6-7-3, 4-1-2 Big West) matched the program best for Big West wins set last year. The Rainbow Wahine, who sit at 14 points in the standings, still have not clinched one of the four berths to the conference tournament, but they might have one by the time Sunday’s regular-season finale at Long Beach State happens based on other results around the league.
The Wahine can no longer be overtaken by LBSU (six points), but they still have to worry about UC Santa Barbara (11 points) and UC Irvine (10 points), who both could still conceivably overtake UH with two matches left, including one against each other.
“When I look at our body of work, I’m happy. I’m happy for the team,” Nagamine said. “But we know it’s not done yet. … I’m thrilled for (the kids) that they get to be in this kind of position. We talked about how to handle pressure and looking at pressure in a different way, as more of a positive than a negative, because when you have pressure on you there’s an opportunity to do something good.”
The Wahine equalized Thursday when Kelci Sumida broke away in the 62nd minute and sent the ball across the goal to Ryan, who tapped it in at the back post.
Ryan would add a penalty-kick goal in the 75th minute when Kayla Watanabe was fouled in the box on a breakaway.
UH had to play the final nine minutes down a player when Sumida was red-carded for retaliating after a no-call on some contact. Play was already chippy and escalated from there for the final minutes, although no further cards were issued. UH’s McKenzie Moore and Emily Cottrell were yellow-carded earlier in the match, as was Davis’ Nicki Rucki.
“Anytime you have three penalty kicks in a game, that’s a pretty good indication that emotions are running high and getting a little out of control,” Nagamine said.
Sumida will be ineligible to play in UH’s game at LBSU on Sunday.
UH scored first, on Sumida’s fifth goal of the year in the 13th minute, but Davis equalized in the 37th minute on a penalty kick and it was tied 1-1 at halftime.
A lot is at stake for the Hawaii soccer team in this week’s two matches to conclude the 2019 regular season, starting with today’s contest at UC Davis.
The Wahine (5-7-3, 3-1-2 Big West), who are narrowly holding on to their place above the Big West tournament cut line, will likely need at least three points from a win over these final two matches at Davis and Long Beach State to make it to the four-team conference playoff.
A 4-1 loss on senior night, their first in conference, on Sunday brought the Wahine back to the pack a bit as they stood pat at 11 points in the standings, while UCSB moved up to draw even with them, plus earning a tiebreaker. There are basically six teams still in the hunt, with UC Irvine (10 points) and LBSU (six) looking to break into the mix at UH’s expense. Cal State Fullerton (15 points) and Cal State Northridge (12) are out in front.
UH can relieve a lot of pressure on itself with a win at the Aggie Soccer Field. This early-afternoon (11 a.m. HST) Halloween matchup is technically not the Aggies’ senior night, as they celebrated that last week with a 2-1 upset win over CSUN.
“I think they’re aware exactly what’s on the line for them,” coach Michele Nagamine said of her young team in a phone interview from Davis on Wednesday. “But we’re trying to look at it as, pressure usually comes about because there’s an opportunity to do something — or not do something. So if we start to change our mentality about pressure, and how we view pressure, and look at pressure as opportunity, maybe we have a little bit different perspective on that.”
The matchup with mathematically eliminated Davis (7-10, 2-5 Big West) should be available on live stream.
“It’s not like when you go into the last game of the season mathematically eliminated, because there is no pressure, no opportunity to advance,” Nagamine said. “So we’re going to flip the switch on that a little bit and look as pressure as opportunity.”
The coach said she’s going to make some lineup tweaks to help allay the slow starts that plagued UH in its draw to Cal Poly and loss to UCSB last week.
Interestingly, for this year it was decided beforehand by the league’s coaches that the regular-season champ would host the four teams for the tournament. Previously, the previous year’s regular-season champ hosted the following year.
Hawaii is actually not mathematically out of the regular-season title race. For that reason, UH has held on to flight and hotel accommodations for three visiting teams to the islands. Nagamine said UH should be able to cancel the reservations at no cost should UH not stun everybody and take first.
So, everything is on the table — a regular-season championship, making the conference tournament for the first time, or failing to close the deal after a great first half of the conference season. High drama for the Wahine.
This post will be updated.
Through Nov. 14
|Cal State Fullerton||5-0-3||18||14-3-4||.762|
|Cal State Northridge||5-3-0||15||12-7-3||.614|
|UC Santa Barbara||4-1-3||15||8-5-6||.579|
|Long Beach State||2-5-1||7||4-12-1||.265|