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Lanakila AYSO Soccer Team Brings Home 16U National Title

The national champs: (front, from left) Brooke Nakamura, Breanna-Leigh Bactista, Jena Uyeda, Kathryn Yuu, Kaci-Ann Endo, Shelynne Rapoza, (back) coach Rose Agas-Yuu, Tarah Kuhn, Kylie Louis, Kaitlin Strobel, Tiare Kahalewai, Jenna Ducosin, Jasmine Davis, Kyllie Murray, Marisa Tanaka, coach Alan Nakamura. Courtesy photo.

The national champs: (front, from left) Brooke Nakamura, Breanna-Leigh Bactista, Jena Uyeda, Kathryn Yuu, Kaci-Ann Endo, Shelynne Rapoza, (back) coach Rose Agas-Yuu, Tarah Kuhn, Kylie Louis, Kaitlin Strobel, Tiare Kahalewai, Jenna Ducosin, Jasmine Davis, Kyllie Murray, Marisa Tanaka, coach Alan Nakamura. Courtesy photo.

The “wow” factor was definitely in place for the Mililani-based girls youth soccer team, Lanakila, when they arrived in Los Angeles for the AYSO National Games.

Lanakila was among 500 teams and 30,000 spectators at the week-long event in Irvine.

“For the new players who traveled with us for the first time, they were like, wow, this is really big,” said head coach Rose Agas-Yuu, whose team rose to the occasion, going 8-0 to capture the national title for 16-and-under.

All eight wins came by shutout, while Lanakila poured in 27 goals, offensively.

Although the team competed at the National Games two years earlier, there were eight new players this time. Lanakila also had to win a berth at the National Games by way of an annual AYSO lottery.

“It was quite an honor to get picked,” Agas-Yuu said. “The girls knew that not everyone gets to go.”

The girls also knew they’d face their share of teams from California.

“California is a year-round soccer state like we are, so the girls knew they (the California teams) would be skilled and give us good competition.

“They persevered — that’s pretty much been our motto. Getting there and seeing them work together was great. We were very pleased. We ended up with a strong offense and a strong defense.”

For most teams at the Games, it was an endurance test. Lanakila played two games a day for four consecutive days. A total of 24 teams competed in their age group.

“It was taking its toll at the end, and we were limping around,” said Agas-Yuu with a laugh. “Some of them had soreness, and we had to ice them up. They were prepared for it. We knew that if we got through pool play, we would be playing (a total of) eight games. They were a pretty conditioned bunch.”

Lanakila also benefited from its cohesiveness, according to the coach, even with three players who joined within three months of the tournament.

“The girls jelled very nicely. We were excited about how well they worked together. They looked like they’d been playing for years together. All in all, they were a good bunch to work with.

“Mililani AYSO also has a real good support system. The coaches all love the kids, and that’s passed through (the organization).

On Lanakila’s National Games roster were Breanna-Leigh Bactista, Jasmine Davis, Kaci-Ann Endo, Tiare Kahalewai, Tarah Kuhn, Kylie Louis, Kyllie Murray, Brooke Nakamura, Shelynne Rapoza, Kaitlin Strobel, Marisa Tanaka, Jena Uyeda, Jenna Ducosin and Kathryn Yuu.

Together, they beat South Torrance-California 5-0, Hacienda Heights-California 1-0, Ojai Valley-California 4-0, Redwood City-California 5-0 and Gilbert-Arizona 5-0 in pool play.

Wins over Downey-California 1-0 and Culver City-California 4-0, in the quarterfinals and semis, respectively, lifted Lanakila into the title game, where it defeated Morton Grove of suburban Chicago 2-0.

The team had played Morton Grove two years earlier in pool play.

“We knew each other from two years ago, and both teams were watching each other. They were a strong contender, and we knew it would be a good match.”

Among the highlights of the trip was the AYSO Festival held the first two days prior to the National Games. Players were split up into new teams, and games were played more for fun.

“The beauty of AYSO soccer is the Soccer Fest,” said Agas-Yuu. “They get to meet kids from other places and make new friends, and the parade they have for all the teams at the beginning gets them excited (to compete).”

jackster.1969@yahoo.com

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