Pearl City Girls Judo Team Snags Fourth Straight OIA Title

For all the talent across the Pearl City girls judo team’s 2013 roster, there’s no doubt who the pacesetter is at practice and on game day. That role was claimed long ago by senior Taylor Castro.

“She’s the glue,” head coach Robin Puahala said of Castro, who competes in the 115-pound class. “She’s been the heart and soul since she came in as a freshman. That year, we counted on her to win her match in overtime, which she did, to help us win the team (title in the OIA).”

Castro was again at the top of her game recently when she and Puahala helped Pearl City capture its fourth straight OIA team title. The OIA individual championships are this weekend, and the state championships next weekend. As in past years, the Chargers figure to be in the mix at the state meet with several expected to qualify this weekend at the OIA individuals.

“This group has shown the ability to work hard, and they’re all playing for each other,” said Puahala, who led Pearl City to the 2012 state title last May. “We have no drama. As big as our senior class is, my freshman and sophomore classes are bigger, and they’re being mentored by the older kids. The seniors want to go out on top, but they’re taking the time to help teach the younger kids, and the younger kids are working hard because they want to see the seniors go out on top.”

When Pearl City captured the team title April 12, it fell to Castro to provide the extra spark, Puahala said. “We were up 30 to 0, but they came back to tie it, and Taylor was in the first match after it was tied. She turned the tide with her win, and we scored 40 unanswered points. She’s one of only a few to have been named a captain here as a sophomore, along with (multiple state champion winners) Sanoe Spencer (2012) and Mei-Ling Keiki (2010). She’s in the same class.”

Castro is one of three four-year players in the program, along with Sherese Ader (122) and Kacie Awa (172). “Sherese is always happy,” Puahala said. “If anyone on the team needs a laugh or a hug, it comes from her. (Her attitude) is infectious, and she’s our emotional leader.

“Kacie is spunky and smart,” he added. “She never quits. She’s always pushing.”

The Chargers also have three state champion wrestlers on the roster in Sandria Ford (115), Nella Fuamatu (154) and Breanne Takaesu (109). The trio all are projected to easily qualify for the state meet in judo. Puahala also has high hopes for seniors Arianna Fernandez (154) and Manai Siania (220).

He attributed Pearl City’s long-term success in part to its coaching staff, considered the largest in the state. “With everyone there, we’re at about 25. We couldn’t make it without them. We’re able to give our kids a lot of one-onone time. When I took over the program, my mentor, Roy Kawagi, told me to build a team that everybody would want to be on, and because of that we would win.”