Dignam: Surfriders Are Younger But Talented

While the Kailua boys soccer team will be among the younger ones in the OIA Red Conference, it will compensate for the lack of game experience with a busy preseason.

The team will play seven games in all by the time it opens league play Dec. 5 at home against Kalani.

“Kids hate practice – they’d rather we play games,” head coach Steve Dignam said, laughing.

Kailua comes off a 2011-12 season filled with close encounters. It went 5-6 overall, with six games decided by two goals or less. The Surfriders were to begin their 2012-13 preseason over the weekend against Kalaheo before turning their attention to a pair of home dates this week versus Campbell Tuesday and Saint Louis Saturday.

Youth will dominate the lineup, but the players’ talent level is a strength.

“We have a lot of athletes,” he said. “The team last year had more skill, but these kids have more desire and a willingness to learn. We’ve been doing conditioning, and there hasn’t been any whining. They’re all just doing what they need to do.”

Dignam is expecting sophomore Naia Graham and junior Max Irons to have a big impact in the early going, as they are among the most seasoned. “Naia has real skills with the ball, and he knows the game from playing a lot of club soccer,” Dignam said of Graham, a forward/center/midfielder. “He’s also a student of the game. We’re looking for big things from him.”

Irons also is a center/mid-fielder who already has started for two years at Kailua, despite being only a junior. “He’s bigger and stronger this year,” Dignam said, noting that Irons is recovering from a preseason injury and likely will miss another week before he can return to action.

Sophomore Colin Kubota and junior Peter Kanoho also are expected to be mainstays in the lineup. Kubota will play multiple positions and could even spend some time at goal-keeper, while Kanoho comes from the baseball program and also will be used at multiple positions.

“Peter brings an incredible foot speed. He gives us a breakaway threat that we haven’t had here the last couple of years.

“Colin is another skilled player we’re hoping for big things from. He’s good all-around. He’s a good kid who works hard and who is willing to do whatever we ask.”

Defense has been the Surfriders’ forte in the Dignam era. Kailua gave up more than three goals only twice last year. “Defensively, we’ll be good again. Offensively, we have to work on our short passing game, and we want to play long ball when the opportunity is there.

“This team is a lot quicker than last year’s team.”