Hawaii soccer: Wahine take lumps, feel ready for Big West

UCLA midfielder Mia Fishel kicked the ball on Sunday against Hawaii as Elena Palacios and Morgan Meza gave chase. Fishel scored twice as the No. 5 Bruins beat UH 4-0. / Photo by Steven Erler, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Anything and everything the Hawaii soccer team could’ve wanted in terms of challenges was offered in its nonconference season.

Three ranked Pac-12 opponents. A distant road trip. Lineup shuffles on a game-to-game and minute-to-minute basis.

With only the eight-game Big West season left to come, will the Rainbow Wahine (2-6-1), picked to finish seventh, make their lumps count? The BWC opener is against Cal State Northridge at home on Oct. 3.

“We’re absolutely ready for the Big West,” coach Michele Nagamine said on the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium field on Sunday. “We specifically tried to set up a lot of adversity in our preseason so that we could make sure we had a lot of different kinds of problems come up. Whether it was going to be travel or fatigue or playing through injury or whatever it was, our kids figured a lot of stuff out and I was very proud of them.”

The defense, led by goalkeeper Lex Mata, has actually held up pretty well in all but two games. UH recorded three shutouts of opponents and hung in against No. 24 Washington State in a 1-0 loss on Thursday.

The creation of consistent scoring opportunities, and finishing the few that appear, has been the biggest problem.

UH was shut out four (CORRECTION: five) times in nine games, including its last three, capped by a 4-0 rout at the hands of No. 5 UCLA on Sunday. It’s scored only five goals on the season — and netted just three in the last seven games.

UH had to replace nearly all of its scoring from last season with BWC offensive player of the year Raisa Strom-Okimoto, first-teamer Lei Medeiros and veteran Sarah Lau all gone. They led UH to a fifth-place finish (4-4-1 BWC) and the closest point the program has been to date at making the four-team Big West tournament.

“We knew we were going to be rebuilding after losing Raisa, Lei and Sarah,” Nagamine said. “So you know, replacing your top three scorers is not an easy thing to do. As we start knocking on the doors, things will start falling into place. We’re pretty confident about that.”

The team showed a little life in the second half against UCLA’s second-stringers Sunday. Freshman Eliza Ammendolia cranked a shot off the crossbar and freshman Kelci Sumida had a 1-on-1 breakaway, but tripped just outside the box.

“We’re getting up there, which is the positive part, we’re getting into our attacking third,” Ammendolia said. “So we just need to start putting away, and I think we can do that in conference.”

Just about everyone on the 30-player roster got a chance at one point or another during nonconference play. Sumida has carved out a role on the wing and leads the team with two goals, game-winners both.

Seventeen different players have started a game.


“Absolutely,” Nagamine said of whether she’s found some combinations she’s liked. “We’ve been able to tinker with the lineup, so we’ve been able to figure out, gain some familiarity together. We do have some depth at some positions so we can move people in and out without losing momentum. So yeah, the lineup is slowly starting to materialize for us, and that’s exactly why we did what we did in the preseason. We have a good idea of our starting lineup now, and I think everyone is still hungry. They’ve got good attitudes.”

Here’s UH’s pre-conference record every year under Nagamine and the place they ended up finishing in conference. UH has yet to have a better winning percentage in the Big West than it had in its pre-conference games that season.

>> 2011: 1-8 (4-2-1 WAC, T3rd)
>> 2012: 5-4-2 (3-5-1 BWC, 6th)
>> 2013: 5-4 (3-4-1 BWC, T5th)
>> 2014: 5-5 (2-5-1 BWC, 8th)
>> 2015: 3-6-1 (0-8 BWC, 9th)
>> 2016: 7-1-1 (2-5-1 BWC, T6th)
>> 2017: 5-4 (1-6-1 BWC, T8th)
>> 2018: 5-3-1 (4-4-1 BWC, 5th)
>> 2019: 2-6-1 (?? BWC)

In terms of nonconference record, the Wahine are right in the middle of the pack this year.

Through Oct. 10

ConferenceOverall
W-L-TPts.W-L-TPct.
Cal State Fullerton2-0-069-2-1.792
UC Santa Barbara2-0-066-3-3.625
Hawaii2-0-064-6-1.409
Cal State Northridge2-1-068-4-3.633
UC Irvine2-1-063-10-0.231
Long Beach State1-2-033-9-0.250
Cal Poly0-2-003-9-1.269
UC Riverside0-2-002-9-1.208
UC Davis0-3-005-8-0.385

Nagamine

I think we started to solve some problems. Our midfield was much better in the second half and we moved the ball better. We started to get some shots off. One went off the crossbar. We missed a 1v1 at the end. Kelci Sumida tripped herself, she got snipered right outside the box. All those things, I think there’s a lot of bright spots today. Let’s be real, we played the No. 5 team in the country. I think we learned a lot and crew a lot today.

We’re absolutely ready for the Big West. We specifically tried to set up a lot of adversity in our preseason so that we could make sure we had a lot of different kinds of problems come up. Whether it was going to be travel or fatigue or playing through injury or whatever it was, our kids figured a lot of stuff out and I was very proud of them.

I don’t think our record reflects how much we’ve grown and how much we’ve improved, but we played three teams in the top 25. And that’s made us better. The wins that we kind of left on the table, that we wish we could get back, we’re going to remember that once we get into conference play.

Absolutely (I’ve found something I liked). We’ve been able to tinker with the lineup, so we’ve been able to figure out, gain some familiarity together. We do have some depth at some positions so we can move people in and out without losing momentum. So yeah, the lineup is slowly starting to materialize for us, and that’s exactly why we did what we did in the preseason. We have a good idea of our starting lineup now, and I think everyone is still hungry. They’ve got good attitudes.


We knew we were going to be rebuilding after losing Raisa, Lei and Sarah. So you know, replacing your top three scorers is not an easy thing to do. As we start knocking on the doors, things will start falling into place. We’re pretty confident about that.

Eliza Ammendolia
We’re getting up there, which is the positive part, we’re getting into our attacking third. So we just need to start putting away, and I think we can do that in conference.

COMMENTS

  1. Aina Man September 23, 2019 6:20 pm

    Haha. Besides that trip, Sumida played a good game. Will be exciting to watch her and Ammendolia in the upcoming conference games. Hope to see those two play more together because once they connect, that combination will be deadly. Future looks bright but wahine soccer needs a goal scorer to fill Raisa’s spot. Cannot always rely on Mata to save them.


  2. H-Man September 24, 2019 8:15 am

    Sorry, but they’re not ready for any team. Wahine does not have an offense. Can’t understand the offensive game plan. Is there one?


  3. Aiea 7 September 24, 2019 8:28 am

    lots of optimism from the coach, that that happens every year and it does not appear to get better. she mentioned that they did better in the second half against ucla, but remember at that point ucla had their reserves in the game. I doubt if they can do better than where their predicted finish this year and that would be another failure year. they do have some talent but it appears that the coaching is not up to par. great coaches can make good talent look great and great talent can make good coaches look great, but uh has neither. if they falter again this year, a serious coaching change in order. you can talk a good game but you have to produce, it is all about wins and losses, not how well you competed in a losing game.


  4. Matt September 27, 2019 1:52 pm

    It’s not that simple. 2016 and 2018, we were that close to making it to the NCAA by one loss. Unfortunately, what happened from those years after those two seasons left them in a soccer hangover to the point where they haven’t improved at all. At the end of the day, winning is what it’s all about, and they haven’t been able to do that cleanly and efficiently. Somehow, it makes me wonder why there’s no men’s soccer for Hawaii because some schools do have men’s soccer and it would be a good idea for us to get our name out there.

    I understand Nagamine wants this team to be optimistic, but at the same time, all that can do is accomplish little to not much. At the end of the day, winning games is what it’s all about, and all the sports programs are upping their game. This program needs to play a complete game without any breakdowns and they may do well, but unfortunately, they’re just being outclassed and outplayed by the upper echelon of much tougher teams. They gotta get out of the funk that they’re in right now.


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