Experienced Surfrider Soccer Team Debuts Dec. 2 In DII

The Kailua High boys soccer team returned to action in recent weeks to find that the landscape around them has changed a bit — at least in terms of playoff prospects. After all, if there was a surprise in the prep soccer community this past off-season, it was the Surfriders being shifted by the OIA to Division II.

The team had more than held its own in the Red conference, going 4-6 with three of those losses decided by a single goal. Kailua also posted an upset win over Kaiser, the eventual OIA Red tournament champion.

Kailua still will be able to play the East teams from the Red during the regular season, but it will battle it out with DII teams Kaimuki, McKinley and Farrington for post-season berths.

“I was a little disappointed they relegated us to DII,” said head coach Steve Dignam, “because we were competitive last year, but we’re excited about this season.”

The Surfriders bring back perhaps the most-experienced team in the state with 16 returning lettermen, including eight starters. Of those who were reserves last season, four logged significant playing time, according to Dignam.

Highlighting the list is last season’s OIA East co-Player of the Year Naia Graham. Now a senior, Graham tallied 13 goals in 2013-14.

“We’re expecting big, big things from him this year,” Dignam said of Graham, who shared Player of the Year honors with Kaiser’s Christian Longnecker. “His goal-scoring capabilities are well-known, but he’ll be marked a lot this season. He’ll have to work harder for his opportunities. We’re also looking for leadership from him.”

Dignam also has high hopes for seniors Colin Kubota and Isaiah Aquino. “Colin has been a leader for us the last two years at goalkeeper,” he said. “This year, we’re going to try to get him out onto the field as either a midfielder or a defender, because he has good ball skills.

“This is Isaiah’s third season with us, so we’re hoping he has a break-out year.”

Junior sweeper Trevor Tam and sophomore Ripley Quebral also are coming off of stellar seasons and will be key players for Kailua this time around, according to Dignam. “We’re looking for big things from Trevor,” he said. “He’s stepped up in our preseason conditioning and become a leader.

“Ripley is an excellent player who started every game as a freshman last year. He’s another of our hard workers. We’re looking to see if we can move him to midfield, but it will depend on whether we can replace him on the defensive side.”

Dignam also is excited about the return of Dustin Imanaka, whose junior season was derailed by a knee injury. “He’s another important cog,” he said. “He’s lights-out quick.”

Kailua’s public unveiling is set for Dec. 2, when it hosts Pac-Five in a pre-season game. The team also hosts Punahou Dec. 5 in preseason action.

Kailua opens its season on the road Dec. 17 against Kalani.