Kapolei Boys Soccer Team Has Sights On Post-season Run

If all goes according to plan, the Kapolei boys soccer team will play at a pace all its own at next week’s OIA post-season tournament, to hear coach Ryan Lau tell it.

“We have a lot of players with good skill sets, but our ball movement and our decision-making can always be better,” said Lau. “Scoring opportunities will be harder to come by, so we need to play quicker, possess and distribute the ball.”

The Hurricanes are in the fine-tuning mode at present as they look to make another post-season run. They took care of business during the regular season, going 7-0-1 through their first eight games, to clinch either a first or second seed for the tournament. They will host a quarterfinal match next Thursday against a team to be determined by first-round results. (The semifinal and championship round matches Friday and Saturday will be played at Kaiser High School.)

As Kapolei enters the post-season, statistics tell the story of a dominant team. On the defensive end, it has yielded only four goals for the season, three of which came in a win over Aiea. In their other seven encounters, Kapolei gave up only one goal. Offensively, it also has been able to finish plays, tallying 35 goals, which is the second-best total in the OIA, include both East and West teams.

For its regular-season efforts, Lau promptly gave his team time off Tuesday and today from practice. “Our legs have been pretty taxed,” admitted Lau, who handles the coaching duties alongside Neal Sakaue and Mark Ishii. “The plan is for them to recharge their bodies and stay on top of their studies. We’ll take a few days to refocus and come back hungry, and we’ll convene at the end of the week.”

Kapolei has relied on a mix of veterans and talented underclassmen so far in 2013. Lau had high praise for sophomore C.J. Harvey and senior Vineal Singh as the West slate wound down. “C.J. was the man of the match in our estimation when we played Mililani (to a scoreless tie). He’s been creating a lot. And Vineal has been good. We’re getting consistent play from our outside-halves.”

The Hurricanes also have had stellar seasons from junior midfielder Dakota Kato and forwards Shannon Hopeau, Keo Ponce and Dylan Orian. “Dakota’s play has definitely come on,” Lau said. “He’s real strong at winning 50-50 balls.” Although only a freshman, Hopeau had a team-best eight assists through his first eight games to go with four goals. Orian and Ponce have each tallied eight goals to lead the Hurricanes on the offensive end.

As the Hurricanes look ahead to the OIA playoffs and state tournament, which follows two weeks later, Lau is emphasizing the mental aspect as much as the physical end in his preparations.

“Staying in the game mentally is something we stress,” he said. “Everyone who will be there (in the post-season) will be good. We try to work on the things that we can control. It’s a process. We separate the season into four quarters, and we’re in the third (OIA playoffs) and fourth (states) quarters now. We’re entering the phase we want to be in, and we’ve stressed the steps to get there, doing the simple things. The best aspect of our play is that we’ve defended well and been good at winning the 50-50 balls.”