Strom-Okimoto goes off in key UH win

Raisa Strom-Okimoto was a popular person on the pitch, during and after UH's game against UC Davis. / Photo by Brian McInnis

Five? Ten? Fifteen?

It was tough to tally exactly how many times Raisa Strom-Okimoto laid out or was laid out on the pitch on Sunday — either from her own doing or from a physical UC Davis side.

“It was quite a lot, yeah,” Strom-Okimoto said afterward, grass stains evident all over her white uniform.

What was clear — the Aiea alumna would not be denied on this night.

After it was scoreless at halftime, Strom-Okimoto scored twice for the first multi-goal game of her career and assisted on Lei Medeiros’ late score — just enough as Hawaii won 3-2 at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.

Davis was carded twice for yellows, and probably could have been issued one or two more late as they resorted to any means necessary to try to square the match. But the Wahine defense stiffened in the final 15 minutes, after Davis drew to within a goal on a laser shot to the top right bin of the goal by Mahlah Catline.

“We knew their style of play, so we knew no matter what we had to regroup,” Strom-Okimoto said. “If something wasn’t happening for us, whenever we got scored on, we kind of … got everyone together, and I think that’s what made the difference between a win and a loss.”

UH (7-5-1, 2-2 Big West) survived to earn a crucial three points toward its goal of the program’s first top-four finish and Big West tournament qualification. Four games remain, including road contests vs. Cal Poly (Oct. 19) and UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 21) up next after a full bye week.

Strom-Okimoto, who put shots in in the 47th and 56th minutes against Davis, has eight goals for the season and 18 for her career, tying her with Jennifer Starsiak and Kelli-Anne Chang for sixth in program history.

Her first was on a bouncing ball sent through by Medeiros, which she flicked up and over Davis keeper Alexis Smith. A few minutes later, the ball pinballed around in the box and to the feet of Strom-Okimoto, who launched it to the far post where Smith had no chance at it.

“It was all a team effort. That first goal, Lei worked her butt off to get that header off,” Strom-Okimoto said. “I just cleaned it up. It was just a team effort. And I’m happy she got a goal as well.”

Medeiros, who scored on a Strom-Okimoto corner kick to make it 3-1 in the 68th minute, has seven goals for her sophomore season. The two have combined for 15 of the team’s 23 goals.

Countless times Sunday, Strom-Okimoto threatened to dribble around or through half the Davis team before being knocked off the ball.

UH coach Michele Nagamine was effusive in her praise of the four-year player afterward.

“So proud of her. She is a game-changer. In my opinion, she’s the best player in our conference. She’s had years where she’s had a lot of support around her, others where she didn’t have a lot of support around her. And she consistently is just so industrious and hard-working and she cares so much. She basically just takes the team and throws everybody on her back. I think this year, we’ve been a lot more supportive of her, as far as how we run off the ball for her and how we support her. But she makes no qualms about saying, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And it’s a pretty beautiful thing to see for her.

On the subject of how many times Strom-Okimoto hit the ground on Sunday, Nagamine had more to say.

“That’s what makes it so special, is she is consistently targeted by every other team we have. They double-team her, they try to foul her. Tactically, they try to take her out of the game, body her up all the time. She’s like a little juggernaut. She just keeps going and going, and I just, I’m so happy for her that she’s having the season that she’s having, because she’s earned every single goal that she’s gotten.”

Davis (4-7-2, 1-2) got goals from Alicia Sloss (67th) and Catline (75th).

UH stands in third in the Big West standing with its six points. However, the Wahine have played more games than all but one league opponent (Cal Poly). Check out the standings here.