Wahine go for 3-0

Michele Nagamine's 15-year-old dog, Sparky, is still spunky at UH practices. / Brian McInnis, Star-Advertiser

Pacific 1, Hawaii 0 — Bryndis Run Thorolfsdottir scores in about the same time it takes to say her name. She catches a cross from Samia Adam in the ninth minute and UH faces a deficit for the third straight game to open the season.
HALFTIME — UH wins the possession battle and outshoots Pacific 8-5, but it’s the Tigers that have the lead at the break despite some close calls.
FINAL — Wahine have several chances in the second half and dominate possession (final shot count is 17-9 UH) but can’t make any find the mark. Sonest Furtado has a left-footed shot saved by keeper Regan Heslop with 30 seconds left.

The last time the Hawaii soccer team had a shot at starting a season 3-0 was a decade ago, back in 2007.

The last time UH actually got to 3-0? All the way back in 2001. That was only the second time (1998) in program history the Rainbow Wahine posted such a record through three games.

“We’re off to a great start,” junior defender Paige Okazaki said. “If we can continue that … I know we kind of fell off toward the end last year, but I think our goal is to keep a steady pace and go all the way through this year.”

No one would confuse Utah Valley and Fairfield for world beaters, but so far the Wahine have done the job asked of them by seventh-year coach Michele Nagamine.

“I think the important thing for us to remember is we came away with two wins,” Nagamine said on Wednesday. “Both Utah Valley and Fairfield were quality teams that stuck to their game plan and exposed us in different ways. Although we weren’t totally satisfied with our performance on Sunday, very proud of the team that we’re finding ways to win, even when we’re not at our best.”

UH can get to 3-0 at 7 p.m. tonight against Pacific (0-1-1) of the West Coast Conference at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium, as part of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Soccer Classic (not to be confused with last week’s nearly indistinguishable OHANA Hotels by Outrigger Shootout). The game is being televised on Spectrum Sports, the first of four this season.

UPDATE: Freshman Izzy Deutsch is getting her first career start at forward, and junior Bo Samson is getting her first career starting nod on defense. Looks like Tia Furuta will come off the bench.

The Tigers are expected to come out in an offensive-minded 4-3-3 formation against UH’s more conservative 4-4-2. They are coming off a 1-1 draw against Cal State Northridge.

The teams last met in one season of Big West Conference overlap, 2012, before UoP jumped to the WCC. The Wahine won that one 2-1 at WPSS.

One of the pleasant surprises of the season’s start has been freshman midfielder Lei Medeiros out of Kamehameha-Maui. She had a preseason injury, so Nagamine downplayed her potential impact. But the athletic, 5-foot-6 Medeiros has been, in Nagamine’s words, a “crowd pleaser,” off the bench between her long throw-ins targeting the opposing goal and even a couple of bicycle kick attempts.

Leialoha Medeiros (UH photo)

“It’s pretty different,” said Medeiros, the 2016-17 MIL player of the year, of the jump to college. “People tell you to be prepared, they try to help you by giving you tips and everything. But it’s not the same when you’re actually in that position. You kind of figure things out for yourself and you kind of become a different person, positively. Learning new things along the way, making new connections. Making new discoveries about yourself.”

Everyone else is discovering her fearlessness.

Here was her bicycle try against Fairfield (video courtesy UH), which deflected to an open shot for the golden goal by Raisa Strom-Okimoto. She also tried one in the opener against Utah Valley, with less success.

“I was at the top of the 6 (yard box), and Sarah Lau (lobbed) the ball. … I turned, oh my God, and it was a perfect chance for me to do it. And I was so close. But I’m determined to keep on trying until I get it.”

Medeiros said she’s done one successfully once outside of a game — but she hurt her arm in the process.

As for her throw-ins — UH has used her for those at the front third of the field — she was always able to throw the ball pretty far, she said. She used it in her KS-Maui days, which resulted in scores “a few times.” As long as the ball hits a player on the way into the net, it counts as a goal.

“Everyone asks … what do I do?” Medeiros said. “I honestly just tell them I throw the ball as far as I can throw it. It’s been a weapon, and I’m pretty thankful.”

Medeiros’ energy jumped out to Nagamine during a camp on Maui.

“That’s the thing I love about Lei. She gives us a presence we haven’t had in a long time,” Nagamine said. “She gets into it. She’s got a little bit of spiciness in her. But she’s very respectful and inquisitive. She wants to be better, searches out guidance. Then she gets in a zone, sees something and she goes for it. I guess that, ‘go big or go home,’ must be a motto that she’s had for a long time.”

Nagamine said Medeiros has the green light to go for a bicycle “when it’s appropriate. If it became excessive, we would probably say something. But if you saw the ball and the way it was serviced from the outside, she would’ve been on SportsCenter if it’d gone in. It was the perfect setup, and she almost connected.”

Meanwhile, UH got some good news back on freshman center back Cristina Drossos, who went down with a knee injury against Fairfield. An MRI revealed a “mild sprain,” according to Nagamine.

“Cristina’s a very, very tough player and had a great mentality. She wants to get back as soon as she can,” the coach said. “She will be out for a little bit, but she was already out there doing her rehab this morning. We look forward to welcoming her back as soon as possible.”

Junior Bo Samson is expected to get the starting nod in the back line for this tournament. She has experience as a backup from last season. Samson recovered from an injury that kept her out the first tournament.

“I think Bo is going to be a great complement to Paige Okazaki, with her athleticism and her speed,” Nagamine said. “She’s smart and she’s good in the air, so I think she’ll be able to step in. She played center back for most of the spring. Although it’s not her natural position, I think she’s done a good job. I’m looking forward to giving her an opportunity to start (tonight). Bo is the type of player to seize the opportunity.”

Okazaki and Dani Crawford are UH most experienced back there. For Okazaki, it’s a role reversal from a couple years ago, when she was a freshman amid an older group. She’s helped steady a new defensive mixture which includes goalkeeper Lex Mata.

“My role is to step out of my comfort zone, step up and be that leader back there,” Okazaki said. “Helping direct the players around me, try to give them advice. Because I can see everything back there and I have the experience, that’s my major role … to be that rock back there.”

She said Mata “has done great so far.”

“As long as we keep a solid back line and have Lex be solid in goal, I think we’re not going to have any problems,” she added.

In the unusual three-team tournament format, UH doesn’t play Seattle until Monday. Seattle and Pacific meet on Saturday at WPSS.


  1. H-Man August 24, 2017 5:30 pm

    Wishing the Wahine soccer team the best of luck in getting to 3-0 tonight. Go Wahine !!!

  2. mary okazaki September 1, 2017 1:28 pm


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