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Waipahu Girls Soccer Extends Season To OIA White Tourney

Waipahu head girls soccer coach Elaina Paredes can be counted among those who believe peak performance begins in one’s mind.

As her Marauders begin play in the OIA White Conference Tournament this week, getting to the right place mentally was a prevailing theme.

“Every team at this stage can play,” she said. “It’s about the ability to control nerves and execute offensively and defensively.”

Paredes and Waipahu are excited to be back in the postseason, having missed the playoffs the past two years when they were in Division I. The Marauders, who were sent back to DII in the off-season, were OIA White champions in 2011, the last year they were in DII. Fast forward to the present, and Waipahu went 2-0-1 against fellow West DII teams during the recently completed regular season to earn the division’s top-seed for this week’s OIA White Tournament. The Marauders also already have clinched a berth in next month’s Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Division II State Soccer Tournament.

“Knowing our season is extended (into the state tournament) will allow our girls to play free and just have fun,” said Paredes, whose team was 3-4-2 overall during the regular season. “Everyone has been coming together, and we’re jelling at the right time. Our biggest issue will be staying healthy. We’ve been relatively healthy this season with no major injuries. We’re focusing on fitness right now. We want everyone to have strong, fresh legs so we can make an impact in the next few weeks.”

Waipahu will play an OIA White Semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Roosevelt High School versus the winner of Wednesday’s first-round matchup between McKinley and Waialua.

Among the current Marauders, only senior midfielder Jessica Gonzales was in the lineup the last time Waipahu appeared in a state tournament.

As expected, she’s been among the league’s best to date and recently shifted from midfield to striker as part of late-season fine-tuning by Paredes.

The position change was brought about by Kapolei-transfer Abigail Castro’s development at the center-midfield spot. Castro had been splitting goal-keeping duties with the Marauders’ Dezyria Martin.

“We found a diamond in the rough (in Castro),” said Paredes. “We first put her there during the Nanakuli game (a 1-all tie Jan. 13), and she did an awesome job. She’s also a boxer who is fit, and she has great vision.”

Summer Akau is also a co-captain for Waipahu and one of 14 seniors on the roster. While Paredes was expecting Waipahu’s depth to be their strength this season, the arrival of a trio of talented freshmen in Karlee

Manding, Alysha Somera and Jenna Ramirez further solidified the Marauders’ rotation.

Somera has blossomed at her center-midfield spot, according to her coach.

“Her stepping up and not being afraid has made a huge impact for us,” Paredes said of Somera, who has scored a team-leading seven goals. “When you’re a center-mid, you’re the general on offense even if you are a freshman. She has so much experience (through Club play), she’s able to take over and control (the ball).”

Defensive play also has been a focal point for the Marauders of late. Waipahu has been idle since their 2-1 win over Radford on Jan. 16.

“We’ve tried to stress defense — from our strikers right down to our fullback,” Paredes said. “As a team, we’ve really tried to work on defense, and those team concepts are coming together now. Defense wins championships.”

Should the Marauders win their semifinal Thursday, they will advance to Saturday’s OIA White Championship Game at Castle High School at 5 p.m. OC-16 will televise the game. jackster.1969@yahoo.com