Kapolei Boys Soccer Faces Tough Interleague Showcase Lineup

If the Kapolei boys soccer team had an extra spring to its step during early workouts, it’s because the preseason schedule demands that they be ready to bring their “A” game out of the gate. As the host school of the Oahu Interleague Soccer Showcase, the Hurricanes will begin their 2013 season by playing ILH powers Punahou, Iolani and Kamehameha.

“It gives all six teams a sense of urgency, knowing the kind of competition you will play right away,” said coach Ryan Lau, who shares coaching duties with Neal Sakaue and Mark Ishii. “The focus is there already. The kids want to measure themselves against (the other programs).”

Also taking part in this weekend’s showcase are fellow OIA members Kalani and Mililani, but both will only face ILH schools under the tournament’s cross-over format. For the Hurricanes, the weekend will be perfect for Lau and his staff to gauge their team as they progress toward the Dec. 4 OIA opener with Nanakuli.

“We’ll see where we’re at. I’m not concerned with the results. We have to get ourselves in sync and comfortable with each other. I want to see our shape, offensively and defensively, and our ability to transition the ball and win balls (oneon-one battles) and the speed of our play – how quickly we can circulate and move the ball around.”

The Hurricanes finished 13-2-2 last season, the final one under Bryce Kaneshiro, who was promoted to the athletic director’s job at Waialua High in the days that followed. Under Kaneshiro, and with Lau, Sakaue and Ishii as assistants, the team enjoyed three semifinal appearances in the Division I state tournament in the last four years, in addition to winning the OIA title in 2007 and 2011.

The staff had been intact since Kapolei’s very first season of competing in the OIA in 2000-2001 with high expectations already a standard.

Among the key returnees are four-year players Dylan Orian (attacker), Brandon Begonia (defender) and junior forward Keo Ponce. Orian is a four-year varsity player, while Begonia was a First Team All-Conference pick in the West last year, while Ponce was the Hurricanes’ leading scorer.

Lau and the Hurricanes also were buoyed in the off-season by the arrival of Georgia-transfer Maxwell Wren, who has long-standing ties to the school. His older brothers, Chris and William, both played in the Kapolei program and are currently competing for Whitworth College and University of Maryland-Baltimore County, respectively.

He also revealed that junior Aldo Ramirez-Hernandez is projected to begin the season as starting goalkeeper.

“(Aldo) has explosive ability,” he added, “and he’s good with his feet.”

Elsewhere in the roster, “we have a lot of guys with a lot of soccer experience. Technically, we’ll be a better team than we were last year. We’ll be strong, defensively, and we have two big goal-scorers back, so our preseason will be about finding our midfield.”

Kapolei opens the inter-league showcase at 7 p.m. Thursday versus Punahou. The Hurricanes play twice Saturday – 9 a.m. versus Kamehameha and 7 p.m. versus Iolani.