Local College Rivals Meeting Friday For Key Soccer Match

One game doesn’t make a season, of course, but the men’s soccer match between Hawaii Pacific University and Brigham Young-Hawaii at 12:30 p.m. Friday on Atherton Field in Kaneohe could go a long way in determining the 2014 PacWest champion. HPU entered last weekend with a 3-1 mark in conference play, while the Seasiders were sitting atop the league at 4-0.

“It could set up for a pretty epic game,” HPU head coach Chris Fisher said. “It should be great with two Hawaii teams that have been playing good soccer lately.”

In addition to scouting reports on the opposition, Fisher and the Sharks have been monitoring the weather. Recent heavy rains at Atherton Field have undermined team momentum, to hear Fisher tell it.

“It isn’t really a home-field advantage for us when the field isn’t good. We seem to get caught on bad days. Before our last home game (a 2-0 loss to Point Loma), we had a downpour Saturday and Sunday, and the field didn’t have time to recover.

“The conditions were tough,” Fisher recalled. “It was a game we could have won but, that being said, we’re still in a pretty good position conference-wise.”

HPU began its PacWest season in impressive fashion, going on the road to post wins over Academy of Art (4-1) and Notre Dame de Namur (3-2). The Sharks returned home to defeat Azusa Pacific (1-0) and moved to 3-0 before the Point Loma University loss Oct. 6.

Despite picking up two huge wins on their first PacWest road trip, Fisher said the Sharks were hit hard by injuries. “We picked up seven injuries along the way. We haven’t had our full team out there yet. That’s been good in one sense because we’ve had some guys stepping up. It also has made establishing a rhythm difficult.”

Senior forward Brais Garcia has carried the Sharks to date offensively with a team-leading eight goals.

He has tallied four in PacWest encounters so far. “Brais has done exceptionally well,” Fisher said of Garcia, who is from Madrid, Spain. “We’ll have to find some other guys who can put the ball in the goal so we don’t have to rely on him so much.”

BYUH already has a pair of shutouts to its credit, having blanked both Dominican (1-0 Sept. 27) and Dixie State (5-0 Oct. 4). The Seasiders also have beaten Holy Names (3-2 in overtime Sept. 25) and Cal Baptist (2-1 Oct. 6).

“They have some good attacking players, so we’re going to have to be solid, defensively,” Fisher admitted, “and we’ll have to create some (scoring) chances (on offense).”

On the heels of Friday’s BYUH game, HPU will go back on the road for games against Holy Names Oct. 21, Dominican Oct. 23 and Fresno Pacific Oct. 25. The Sharks’ final home game is Nov. 1 versus Chaminade.