Aiea Girls Soccer Season Starts Strong

In the ultra-competitive OIA West, the only team Benji Villaflor concerns himself with is his own. Indeed, scouting reports on the opposition aren’t part of his preparation as Aiea girls soccer head coach.

“I’m only worried that we will show up that day and play our game,” said Villaflor. “When we do that, we’re fine.”

After last February’s riveting run to the Division I state soccer championship game, Villaflor’s team is looking to have another January to remember.

Aiea took a 5-1 record into the weekend with all five wins coming by way of a shutout. Na Ali‘i’s only loss was 2-0 setback to Campbell Dec. 23. “Campbell was our first test, and we failed that test,” Villaflor said. “We were really outplayed that game. I was upset with the way we came out. It seemed like Campbell was beating our girls individually. I thought we’d have a better showing.”

Aiea is in the middle of an 11-day layoff that began following their 5-0 win over Waialua Dec. 30.

The team returns to action at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Kapolei in a key contest. Na Ali‘i also play at Pearl City Jan. 13 and at home against Mililani Jan. 16.

“We have a lot of work to do before we jump in and play them,” Villaflor said. “We’ve been training hard since the Campbell game, so hopefully we’ll play well for the next couple weeks.”

In addition to a strong corps of seasoned veterans, Aiea has its share of talented underclassmen, most notably sophomores Jordan Hill and Tiana Ono and freshman Katie Hamilton. The trio earned high praise from their coach. “They are three of our younger players, but they’ve been the consistent ones,” he said.

Aiea suffered a blow early in preseason when it lost senior Raisa Strom-Okimoto to an injury. She was the state’s leading scorer last season with 24 goals and was named OIA West Player of the Year. The team has pressed on in her absence, however, scoring an impressive 38 goals through its first six games.

Aiea’s lineup also features seniors Leah Pajimula, Keani Napuunoa, Brittany Maze and Tamera Mikamura, as well as junior Sara Olanda, whose 12 goals in six games ranked her second in the state at press time.

Aiea and Kapolei split their two meetings a year ago. The Hurricanes won the regular-season game, while Aiea came back to beat Kapolei in the semifinals of the Division I soccer tournament.

“We have to stick to our game plan and not get sucked into theirs,” Villaflor noted.

As was the case last year, defense has been Aiea’s forte. “Our defense has been pretty good. One of the goals we gave up came late in the Campbell game, so we’ve been pretty solid.”