Campbell Faces States After Landmark Win Over Kalani

The “breakthrough” win the Campbell boys soccer program had been courting finally came to pass last week with the Sabers’ riveting shoot-out win over Kalani in the quarterfinals of the OIA post-season tournament. Even so, the celebration is on hold as the team looks forward to next week, when they take part in the 2013 Division I state soccer tournament.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen constant improvement, but our goal was always to get to the state tournament, and this is the first time we’ve done it,” said head coach Randy White.

The landmark win over Kalani, which had been the top seed out of the East in addition to state tournament runner-up last February, was Campbell’s fifth in a row. It was to meet Mililani late last Thursday in the OIA semi-finals in hope of moving into Friday’s championship game. White cited their practices in late December during a week off of games as a critical factor in development this season.

“They’re a smart group of kids who understand the game very well,” said White, whose team was 8-3-1, heading into last Thursday’s OIA semifinal. “During our winter break, they really had time to focus, and they started to listen, and they were great at accepting the system we’d implemented. They’ve been resilient and persistent with what we’ve preached and coached. I’m glad it’s happening now instead of peaking early and fading at the end as we have in other years.”

Campbell’s upset of Kalani also guaranteed that, for the seventh year in a row, a West team would win the Division I OIA tournament, as Pearl City and Kapolei joined the Sabers and Mililani in making the final round of four.

The late-season run has been made more impressive in that White has a young roster. For the second straight year, there are only three seniors in the lineup, as talented underclassmen dominate the rest of the slots.

“We will peak next year or the year after,” said White, noting the up-and-comers on his roster.

Among the players the Sabers must replace next season is senior Tevin Sales, who earned high praise from his coach.

“That boy always gives 110 percent,” White said of Sales, an attacking mid-fielder. “He’s intelligent, and he’s really accepted the role of being a leader.

The kids all respect him for his work ethic.”

As they look ahead to next week’s state tournament, Campbell’s best offense remains its defense, according to White.

“We’ve built our offense from our defense,” he explained. “We try to win the ball, and then we make counter attacks rather than possess the ball. Our offense is improving, but I’ll take any point I can get. We’ve been working at our shooting and other things so we can score more.”

Campbell’s best defensive effort to date was no doubt the win over Kalani, which failed to score on the Sabers through regulation time and two overtime periods.

“We try to take care of that end first, we’re a ‘defense first’ team,” White said. “(The Kalani game) was the biggest culmination of that yet. We didn’t play at that level the day before (in a 4-3 win over Kailua).”