Strong Defense Lands Nike Rush A Spot In Phoenix Tourney

Head coach Stan Fuller III (back, from left), Daniel Woo, Chay ‘Boogie’ Mattos , Keenan Soares, Brad Yamashita, La‘akea Aiu, Noah Alejado, Luke Wyman, Noa Harrison, Toamana Makaiau, assistant coach Shayne Fuller, (front) David Paul Tupper, Trey Yogi, Jonny Connor, Garrison Lee, Rusty Crowder and Dylan Cabalang. Photo from Peachy Crowder.

By his own admission, convincing his team to take pride in defense is no small task – not when it comes to 12- to 14-year-old athletes – but Hawaii Nike Rush Soccer ’99 head coach Stan Fuller III has managed to get his message across.

“This age group, they definitely want to have fun,” said Fuller. “Their mindset is usually wanting to score goals, but you recognize a real defensive-minded player right away (as a coach). Having your team become defensive-minded is one of the struggles for all of us who coach youth soccer.”

Fuller and Hawaii Nike Rush ’99 are counting on defensive play to carry them again next week in Phoenix, Ariz., where they’ll play in the U.S.

Youth Soccer 2012 Far West Regionals.

The team punched its ticket for the event by winning the USYS state tournament last month. Through the spring, Nike Rush had a 9-0 mark in tournaments and finished second in its H.I.S.A. league despite playing against older competition in the 15-and-under division.

In its nine tournament games this spring, the team has yet to be scored against, while putting up big offensive numbers along the way.

“We’re attack-minded, which is why we’ve scored a lot of goals,” Fuller explained. “We defend all over the field, and our goal-keepers have kept us in games. They’ve earned those shutouts.”

In addition to the skills of goalies Rusty Crowder and Brad Yamashita, Fuller also acknowledged the play of center mid-fielders David Tupper and Keenan Soares. “They complement each other. David is a field general, and Keenan is a physical specimen with a ton of speed.”

The roster also includes

La’akea Aiu, Noah Alejado, Dylan Cabalang, Jonathan Connor, Garrison Lee, Toa Makaiau, Chay (“Boogie”) Mattos, Daniel Woo, Luke Wyman and Trey Yogi. Most team members live in Aiea, Pearl City, Ewa Beach, Kapolei and Mililani.

Although the team has its share of athleticism, Fuller said its cohesiveness is a big factor. “The boys have definitely grown through the year. Out on the field, they’re always looking out for each other. They’ve become more of a family. That’s been a key ingredient.”

Fuller is assisted by his son, Shayne, one of Hawaii’s top players from his own age group and a key member of Hawaii Nike Rush’s ’94 premier league team. “He’s a role model for them – someone they can look up to,” he said of Shayne.

As they begin regional play Monday, another factor will be part of the mix, according to Fuller, who is expecting a step up in competition in Phoenix. Having taken away the suspense early in a series of blow-out wins, Fuller’s team has played in few close games. “Winning has shown we have focus, but we’re also wondering if we can play from behind,” he said. “We think they can.”

The Far West Regionals run next Monday through June 24. The winner advances to the Nationals in August.