Hawaii soccer: Rainbow Wahine launch practices with 11-on-11 scrimmage

UH freshman Kelci Sumida dribbled the ball in an 11-on-11 scrimmage on Day 1 of full practices on Wednesday. / Photo by Brian McInnis

The chalking of an entire soccer field and the playing of an actual 11-on-11 scrimmage in fall practice hasn’t happened a whole heck of a lot in recent years for the Hawaii soccer team.

Last year, especially, the numbers just weren’t there, as UH had only 20 healthy players right from the get-go.

This fall is different in that respect; the Rainbow Wahine are stocked with bodies with a 30-player roster. UH coach Michele Nagamine decided to get the ball rolling for fall practices by having her players engage in a full, near-game-length scrimmage complete with subs on each side on Wednesday afternoon. That morning, they completed their welcome-back fitness test.

“It sure was nice to be able to go 11 vs. 11,” said Nagamine, who begins her ninth year at the helm. “This year, having (30) players, we still have a couple people coming back from injury, but this was a really nice luxury to have, to be able to go full field and see people in multiple positions was very beneficial.”

Sophomore forward McKenzie Moore had the deciding goal of the session for the Green squad, narrowly remaining onside on a through ball and dribbling past sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Marquez of the Yellow squad to flick a shot up and in early on in the 1-0 session.

At the other end, fifth-year senior keeper Alexis Mata preserved the shutout, though she wasn’t tested much this time.

It’s been a restless nine months for Mata and the other Rainbow Wahine returnees, who came agonizingly close to their first Big West tournament appearance, only to fall 2-1 to last-place Cal State Fullerton on senior night last Oct. 28.

“I’m honestly so grateful to be here and be able to give it one last shot at (the) tournament, especially with this group. I’m very excited to see what we can do,” said Mata, a Big West honorable mention last season who recorded six shutouts.

“Oh yeah,” she said of whether the end of last season stuck with her. “That’s been the motivation for a lot of us this summer. To be real, Fullerton didn’t knock us out of the tournament. We knocked ourselves out. That game was very winnable, and I think it just came to discipline and finishing strong. So that’s something we really want to focus on this year, is discipline. No shortcuts. From the start.”

She was pleased by most of the team’s mainland players returning to campus early for optional, early morning offseason workouts.

“We have a score to settle within ourselves. We’re ready to go,” Mata said.

UH has plenty of scoring to replace from last year’s fifth-place (4-4 BWC) team. Offensive player of the year Raisa Strom-Okimoto is graduated and playing pro. Fellow first-teamer Leialoha Medeiros left the team in the offseason, and veteran Sarah Lau is also graduated. Twenty of the 30 on the team are either freshmen or sophomores.

“There’s definitely some spots that have opened up. We’re all fighting for it, so you know, however it goes,” said Kayla Watanabe, a Mid-Pacific alumna who’s playing her final season of college soccer as a graduate transfer to UH. She has the most career college goals (nine) of anyone on the team.

The fifth year senior from Idaho decided to come home after receiving her undergraduate degree in nutrition at UI and recalling a positive experience she had playing at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium as a sub in a 2-0 Wahine win in 2016. (Watanabe did not play in the Vandals’ 1-0 win over UH in Moscow in 2017.)

“I really loved seeing all my family and friends,” Watanabe said. “Having this opportunity is great. I’m excited for all my family and friends to come watch.

“(Adjusting) actually hasn’t been too bad. I think I fit in pretty well right now … which I’m really happy about.”

UH opens the season Aug. 22 at home against USC.

Sophomore defender Natalie Dixon protected the ball. / Photo by Brian McInnis

1Alexis MataGK5-7R-Sr.Woodland, Calif.Pioneer HS
2Cristina DrossosD/F5-9Jr.El Dorado Hills, Calif.Oak Ridge HS
3Taylor CaporusMF/D5-4Fr.HonoluluRoosevelt HS
4Natalie DixonD5-7So.Murrieta, Calif.Vista Murrieta HS
5V JimenezD5-4Fr.Chandler, Ariz.Perry HS
6Madison MooreMF/D5-7R-Sr.Kalaheo, KauaiLong Beach State
7Natalie DaubD5-6So.Redmond, Wash.Redmond HS
8Elena PalaciosD5-10So.Mountain View, Calif.Mountain View HS
9McKenzie MooreMF/F5-7So.Corona, Calif.Santiago HS
10Daelenn TokunagaF5-7So.WaipahuPearl City HS
11Lauren MarquezGK5-6So.Glendale, Ariz.Deer Valley HS
12Taylor MasonD5-1Jr.Johns Creek, Ga.Greater Atlanta Christian
13Kiri DaleD/MF/F5-7R-Sr.Mullumbimby, New South Wales, AustraliaIona College
14Kayla RyanD5-5So.San Jose, Calif.Valley Christian HS
15Izzy DeutschMF5-6Jr.PhoenixDesert Vista HS
16Morgan MezaD/MF5-5So.Los Alamitos, Calif.Los Alamitos HS
17Mikaelah Johnson-GriggsMF/F5-8Sr.Beaverton, Ore.Oregon Episcopal
18Grace PekovichD/MF5-10Fr.Meridian, IdahoCentennial HS
19Sadie LutzD5-3Jr.Moorpark, Calif.Moorpark HS
20Batya BagullyMF/F5-5Fr.San Marcos, Calif.San Marcos HS
21Claire Jo DiedeF5-8So.Everett, Wash.Kings HS
22Malia FaramarziD/MF5-6Fr.Encinitas, Calif.San Dieguito Academy
23Michaela RentnerF5-4So.Temecula, Calif.Arizona
24Kylie McNamaraMF5-3Fr.Union City, Calif.James Logan HS
25Emily CottrellD5-6Fr.Castle Pines, Colo.Rock Canyon HS
26Tia FurutaF5-5R-Jr.MililaniMililani HS
27Eliza AmmendoliaMF5-2Fr.Griffith, New South Wales, AustraliaHill Sport HS
28Loren HouseD5-7Fr.Decatur, Ga.Saint Pius X Catholic HS
30Kelci SumidaMF5-5Fr.HonoluluMoanalua HS
32Kayla WatanabeF5-4R-Sr.HonoluluIdaho
Assistant coach: Marc Fournier
Assistant coach: Rachael Doyle
Head coach: Michele Nagamine
Volunteer assistant coach: Stephen Whitehouse