Girls Soccer Makes a Goal
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
After 10 years, Girls Soccer is back as an official sport at Molokai High School, and the team has their first and only games of the season against Seabury Hall on Maui Dec. 17-18. Head Coach Matt Yamashita said bringing back the program has been a goal years in the making.
This year’s team has 18 players who will be competing at the junior varsity level, with the plan to play as varsity next year, according to Yamashita.
“It took many years of building up the program from AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization], to Molokai Middle School after school programs, to hybrid MHS programs and summer workshops,” said Yamashita. “It was truly a community effort that took many volunteers to get us to where we are today.”
In 2016, community volunteers reestablished a kids soccer program on Molokai under AYSO, a national nonprofit that promotes the sport for youth. The program had participation from hundreds of Molokai keiki age 12 and under, according to Yamashita, which continued until COVID shut it down in 2020, and will resume when county rules allow.
Molokai Middle School started an after-school soccer program in 2018 in which students traveled to Maui to play other middle school teams. That program will also be returning this year after COVID shutdowns, said Yamashita. A summer soccer program for youth ages 12 to 17 was held by the Maui County Parks and Recreation Dept. in the summer of 2019, which also helped spur the sport on Molokai. Then, with funding from LIVE Kakou and support from the MHS Athletic Dept., a girls soccer program kicked off at Molokai High in the fall season of 2019 as an unofficial, hybrid sport, wrapping up with an exhibition match again Seabury, said Yamashita.
Like other sports, the program came to a standstill when COVID hit but as restrictions eased, MHS and volunteer coaches held a weekly skill building program for high school boys and girls this past summer. And in November, the first, official ,six-week junior varsity season began for girls soccer as a fully-funded program under the Molokai High Athletic Dept, according to Yamashita. a
“I’ve been deeply involved… in all the above efforts, so it’s been really rewarding to see interest in soccer expand so successfully on Molokai,” said Yamashita. “It took a lot of passionate community volunteers, organizations, players and families to get us to where we are today. Restarting the high school program has been a goal from day one, when we got AYSO up and running. We knew it would take some years to build up the skillset of our players from a young age and create a foundation of interest in the sport…. Almost all of our high school players have participated in the AYSO and/or middle school programs.”
The team is playing under the direction of Yamashita as head coach, along with Greg Lourio and Kabbie and Isaiah Bicoy. Yamashita also gave credit to Athletic Director Lee DeRouin and Trainer Eric Scala at the MHS Athletic Department “who have been instrumental in rebuilding the high school program.”
For Yamashita, his own passion for the sport stemmed from playing as a kid.
“I grew up playing soccer on Molokai, starting with AYSO youth soccer, through my senior year of high school,” he said, adding soccer “disappeared” from Molokai in the early 2000s. “Those experiences provided great memories, helped build my confidence as a youth, and helped form some really important friendships…. It feels really nice to be able to now give our youth the same opportunities that we had… to experience this sport, build their confidence, and make great memories along the way.”
Rick Schonely contributed to this story.