The near-annual Hawaii soccer alumnae game always carries more meaning if there’s one particular name involved.
Since her career wrapped up in 2005, the greatest player in Rainbow Wahine soccer history accomplished what many athletes aspire to earn but few actually achieve — an Olympic gold medal.
She’s also sporadically signed up for UH alumnae matches. This season, Kai has been a regular sight around the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
Kai will compete with the 12-person UH alumnae squad against the current Wahine on Saturday at 5 p.m. at WPSS.
At least one current UH player knows Kai a little bit. Freshman forward Sonest Furtado has experienced some trash talk from Kai (a renowned trash talker) in the days leading up to the match.
“She’s been saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to show you how to really score,’ and stuff like that,” said Furtado, UH’s co-leader in goals scored with four.
It will be the first alumnae match for many of the current UH players, as last year’s match was scratched.
“It’s going to be hard because they have some good players. But we’ll just have to suck it up and do our best,” Furtado said.
Some of the participating alums are of very recent vintage — Skye Shimabukuro, Bree Locquiao, Karli Look, Crystal Fresquez and Christy Watanabe — so they could offer a pretty stern test. And, of course, there’s Kai, who went to UH after a stellar career at Kahuku.
“I looked up to her and Joelle Sugai,” said sophomore Storm Kenui, a Moanalua graduate who also leads UH with four goals. “But it’s going to be kind of crazy going against her, you know. Because she’s good, still yet!”
Kai’s legend has reached team newcomers who weren’t in the islands when Kai was scoring her record 162 career UH points (corrected from goals … she had 72 of those, another record).
“I hadn’t heard about her until she was here (at our games),” said freshman Dani Crawford, of Moses Lake, Wash., “and everyone was like, ‘oh, do you know who that is,’ and I was like, ‘wait, no.’ And they said she was an Olympic gold medalist, and all this. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, OK, this will be fun.’ So I’m excited to actually see her play, because that’s a great experience in its own. And it should be really interesting.” She laughed.
The alumnae game is the last action for UH (5-5) before the start of Big West Conference play. But the Wahine are already riding some momentum; they went 3-1 on their two-week road trip through Big Sky country.
Kenui is the reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Week after stepping into the back line for the injured Lidia Battaglia and helping UH take the Montana Invitational title to cap the trip.
On the trip, Furtado and Kenui scored or assisted in each of the four matches.
“I think (the alumnae match) is going to be a good preparation because, having the alumnae come back, I know they’re going to be really competitive against young girls,” Kenui said. “But I think it’s going to help us prepare for our conference next week.”