Overcoming Key Player Injuries

The Kalaheo girls soccer team’s focus lately has been as much on the mental aspect of the game as on the physical as it prepared for this week’s Division II state soccer tournament.

A rash of injuries, including the loss of star mid-fielder Kiana Bowman in Kalaheo’s OIA tournament semifinal Jan. 16, ensured as much.

“In a sense, we were still trying to get over the loss of Kiana last week when we got back together as a team,” head coach Alan Heu said. “The emotions of our team went bad. We’d given them three days off after (the OIA tournament), and we had no energy and no life on Monday of last week. It was probably one of our worst training days. We had to build it back and put more energy into our training sessions. They share a bond, and Kiana’s injury was devastating. We’d also lost Hayli Gibson for the season. Injuries can take their toll when you have a young team.”

(Kalaheo also lost Bridget Martin, who moved back to her native Vermont during Christmas break.)

Thirteen days will have elapsed since Kalaheo’s last game when it takes the field Wednesday in its first-round state tournament game. Pairings for the tour-ney, which will run Wednesday through Saturday at Waipio Soccer Complex, were to be revealed over the weekend.

Despite an ever-changing lineup, defense has carried Kalaheo to date, and Heu expects that to be the case at states, where low-scoring affairs are often the norm. “Our defense has been the strength with Kamele (Kahanu) and Kiana (Bowman),” he said. “Mele has been our stopper back there. Having her there is a strength. Defensively, we’ve been real good, and our midfielders are doing a good job.

“Now we just have to find a way to score.”

With that in mind, Heu plans to play sophomore Nikki Grimm in goal this week. The Mustangs had gone with fellow sophomore Tierra Bush in net much of the season, but she will shift to forward as Heu looks for more offense up front.

Up front, Heu praised the play of Kiana Forsythe and Taylor Catobus. “They’ve both been coming around and have stepped up.” He also called promising sophomores Percie Lyons and McKayla Collins “welcome additions” to the team after the pair transferred from California within the last year.

The return of captain and four-year player Jenn Chun from a hip-flexor injury also could figure big for Kalaheo and help to compensate for the injury losses. Chun returned to action in time for Kalaheo’s season finale with McKinley, a 4-0 win.

Despite the adversities, the state tournament offers new life for everyone involved, according to Heu. “It will be an interesting test – our final test. (The tournament) is another chance. I tell the girls these are the things that memories are built on.”