Kalaheo May Have Its Most-balanced Soccer Team Ever

The Kalaheo boys soccer team welcomed in the new year after a “December to remember,” with a 6-0 start in OIA play. Even so, head coach John Nakagawa has the month of February more in mind.

He’s always looking for day-to-day progress, first and foremost.

“We’re still far from where we want to be,” he said, “but hopefully we’re improving with each game. We’re doing all we can to keep the train on the track. We literally take it one game at a time. We train for the next opponent, and that’s it.”

Kalaheo was to meet its biggest challenge to date over the weekend, hosting defending state runner-up Kalani and its 2012 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year, Leo Klink.

The league is taking the week off, giving Kalaheo a 12-day break until league games with McKinley (Jan. 10, away), Kahuku (Jan. 12, away) and Castle (Jan. 14, home).

“They are all very, very good teams,” Nakagawa said of the remaining schedule. The Mustangs’ start is also impressive in that as a Division II team this winter, they’ve already beaten DI teams.

“After preseason and before we began our regular season, the boys did some team goal-setting and put those goals on a large poster. One was to be highly competitive with everyone we play. The kids then all signed it on their own, without the coaching staff (recommending as much). I think that helped them buy in. It was a jelling point for them.”

With that in mind, the family atmosphere has been a team strength, in Nakagawa’s view. “If I had to identify what we could attribute our success to, I would say two things. One would be really strong leadership among our three senior and two junior captains. Having a lot of veterans (10 seniors, eight juniors) has helped. They understand what we’re trying to do tactically. The other thing would be that they’ve totally bought in and embraced the idea of team unity. It is what has carried us through.”

While the Mustangs have had their share of good teams in recent years, their current team’s balance rates among perhaps the best in the proud program’s history. “This year, we have all facets down – from goal-keeping to our transition game, to defending as well as attacking to score goals.”

Among this week’s priorities will be turning their attention to the upcoming McKinley game.

“McKinley is a very good team – they always have been. Whenever we’ve played them it’s been like a 50/50 game. It’s always been competitive with them.”