Hawaii soccer: Young ones get a chance in opening loss to USC

Lex Mata stopped an attack by USCs Tara McKeown on Thursday. / Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser

Maybe it was the blazing sun or the dozen-plus players milling about the sideline at any given moment. In any case, Michele Nagamine was going to sub, and sub heavily in the 2019 Hawaii soccer opener at the Manoa Lower Campus field.

Six players made their Rainbow Wahine soccer official debuts among 20 to see action on Thursday afternoon in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 USC.


They were redshirt senior Kayla Watanabe, redshirt senior Madison Moore, sophomore Michaela Rentner, freshman Emily Cottrell, freshman Loren House and freshman Kelci Sumida.

Watanabe (Idaho), Moore (Long Beach State), and Rentner (Arizona) had previous Division I experience. The other three saw their very first college action.

“For the freshmen to go in with the pace of this kind of game and really hold their own, I thought there were bright spots everywhere,” Nagamine said. “Our future is very, very bright. I’m thrilled about it. In theory, when you’re recruiting kids, you just don’t know how the transition is going to be from high school and club to college. And I thought the kids who played today, considering this was their first introduction to Division I soccer, did a great job.”

Sumida in particular held her own against the powerhouse Trojans, who’ve won 15 straight games in four straight seasons, including taking the NCAA championship in 2016. Sumida, a 5-5 forward from Moanalua High, made the Star-Advertiser’s All-State second team in 2019.

Freshman Kelci Sumida dueled USC’s Jaelyn Eisenhart for possession. / Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser

Sumida saw 55 minutes, House 50 and Cottrell eight. Cottrell recorded a shot on goal.

“I wanted to make sure they enjoyed this moment, took in this moment,” said fifth-year senior goalkeeper Lex Mata, who saved eight shots. “Your first college minutes, just be in the moment. And I was very proud of everyone, but especially the young ones who came out here.”

Said Watanabe, who’s been dubbed “Tutu Ninja” by Nagamine: “I think they handled it pretty well. Obviously they were really excited and I think they did pretty good.”

Watanabe, a Mid-Pacific alumna and fifth-year college player, and Moore, a fifth-year senior from Kauai, both got starting nods up top. They played 51 and 36 minutes, respectively, while Rentner saw 48 at attacking mid.

UH’s closest chance to score against the Trojans came with five minutes left, when the Pac-12 team was assessed a yellow card in the penalty box. Sophomore forward McKenzie Moore lined up a shot and went far post, but her skimming ball caromed off the left and USC cleared it.


Nagamine thought the practice field held up exceptionally well to the wear and tear of play (although there plenty more of that to come over the next week and a half).

“I have to give major props to the facilities crew and our marketing crew. I mean, it’s beautiful. This field is better than a lot of people’s game fields. The way that everyone’s worked together and banded together to make this event happen, I had chicken skin. I was nervous before the game. I was like, ‘wow, this is an incredible venue.’ Like I said, see you on the hill. The hill (looking down from the UH football practice field) was full, that was pretty cool.”

Said Mata: “Definitely not Waipio, but it was a comfortable feeling to be on our home practice field. We’re out here every day, so yeah, started the game pretty comfortably. Wasn’t bad.”

Update: USC coach Keidane McAlpine would’ve preferred to play at Waipio, but downplayed the significance of the move. “The hospitality’s fantastic, but the move didn’t affect us that much. They allowed us to train out here for a couple days, so that was good for us to come out and get adjusted. Would’ve loved to play at night; I know the environment out there at the stadium is unbelievable and that was something we were looking forward to. But again, another day. The crowd was still a good crowd and (it was) a good event.”

UH next hosts San Francisco on Monday at 3:30 to conclude the Outrigger Soccer Kickoff.


Here were live updates from earlier:

That’s all she wrote. No. 5 Trojans win 3-0 in the teams’ season opener, outshooting UH 13-5.

Taylor Mason makes a nice body save across the goal, but then USC’s Savianna Gomez goes far post from 20 yards over an outstretched Mata. 3-0 Trojans with under six minutes to go.

Mata got up to snare a ball that was going to sneak in just under the crossbar. Eight saves with 10 minutes left.

Freshman Kelci Sumida of Moanalua doing some nice things up front in her first college game.

Mata saves one at the goal line. She’s up to seven saves today. A minute later, defender Natalie Daub sends a shot wide of the SC goal.

Kayla Ryan got off a shot on goal, UH’s first official shot of the game. Count is 10-1 in favor of SC with 30 minutes left.

Right when I say that, Watanabe goes down with a cramp. Thankfully looks like not more than that. It’s very hot out here.

Kayla Watanabe making some nice moves at center forward for UH. The problem has been getting her the ball where she can do something with it.

Mata with another great punchout save on a free kick with 35 minutes to play.

USC’s Madeline Vergura with a great shot off the hop, but Lex Mata with an even better leaping save. Keeps it at a two-goal game early in the second half.

HALF: USC 2, Hawaii 0.

The fifth-ranked Trojans outshoot UH 6-0 in the period. The bigger, more athletic visitors are dominating possession and connection.

It’s sure hot out here; a mandatory water break was called in the first half.

Besides the back line and in goal, Michele Nagamine has gone to her reserves looking for a spark in this heat.

The Trojans tack on another in the 32nd minute, as Tara McKeown scores on a breakaway. McKeown has a score and an assist today. Meanwhile, the Wahine have not registered a shot attempt.

USC strikes first, in the ninth minute, on a tap-in by Penelope Hocking.

There looks to be a couple hundred fans taking in this game on the UH Lower Campus.


  1. HawaiiMongoose August 22, 2019 7:50 pm

    I expected USC to dominate, but to fail converting the penalty kick… that’s disappointing.

    Glad to hear Kelci Sumida played well in her freshman debut.

  2. PONO August 22, 2019 7:56 pm

    Another year with Nagamine and more losing. Some things never change. #losemoney

  3. Brethren August 23, 2019 2:24 pm

    Awesome to see the University of Hawaii giving our local talent an opportunity to shine and even better to watch the local girls stay home to get an education. The future looks bright for UH soccer!!! Nothing more pono than that.

  4. Matt August 24, 2019 2:55 pm


    You know, there’s an expression to this, but I can’t seem to think of one at the top of my head. But soccer is probably the most underwhelming sport to watch on OC16/Spectrum Sports. Under Nagamine’s tenure as head coach while in BWC play, in terms of televised games where her teams have won in conference play, she’s 7-11-1 in terms of games won while televised (I’m sure it’s probably much bigger, but I can’t quite fathom if any other games prior to 2012 to 2018 in which any, if all, BWC games were televised). After 2016, the team was so close to making it to 10 wins, but fell to Northridge in 2OT. 2017 was not even close at all, having gone 6-10-1 to the season. 2018, I’m sure had that Hurricane Lane-false alert not occurred, I’m sure they could have got a win at least either Montana or Arizona State, but probably more likely on Montana. But once again, we finish 9-7-1. There just seems to be something missing out of Nagamine’s teams that she’s coached, but what could it be? It’s hard to figure that part out, and especially since it’s been 12 years since the soccer team made it to the NCAA, and that was during the WAC years. However, it’s just hard to find the correct balance of players who can be a spark for the team nowadays. A lot of good mainland schools end up getting all the good recruits and we’re basically picking ones out of the bottom of the barrel. How can we compete with much larger blue-collar schools in terms of recruiting? That’s a toughie, especially because Hawaii’s kind of a far-away state for a lot of the states in the east coast. There’s gotta be a way for our school to get back on track in terms of recruiting good enough players that can help the team out in the long run. It’s just about developing confidence in the young players and understand how the veteran players do it. I just hope Nagamine doesn’t continue going through a roller coaster year with this program because there’s gotta be a time she will have a good team that will be good enough to win a chance for the BWC conference title.

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