LAHAINA - It is a field of dreams - a beautiful expression of aloha and strength of character that resides in the heart of Lahainaluna High School.
The dreamlike quality of the Lady Luna softball facility manifests not only the Title IX legislation and the community support that propelled the construction and careful maintenance of the field, but also the hopes and aspirations of hundreds of youngsters taking part in the explosion of softball here in Lahaina, across the nation and around the world.
Spearheading those dreams is the Lahainaluna softball program led by head coach Lei Nakamura. A Lahainaluna alum now into her fourth year at the helm of the Lady Lunas, Nakamura, along with her staff of Joe Keanini, Charles Wallace, Josh Wallace and Talia Filikitonga, has guided the team to success with a gritty, dirt-diving approach to the game. That approach resulted in a Maui Interscholastic League championship a year ago - the first in seven long years - and a realization of the unifying development of the program under this guidance.
The softball team includes (from left): front — Brennalyn Nakamura; second row — Janah Pagatpatan, Hope Morikawa and Tobi Bonifacio; third row — Lyla Talaroc-Kaneho, Chalice Dela Cruz, Kaua Arcangel and Tracy Panlasigui; back row — Lithe Pokipala-Waiohu, Jessica Wallace, Keku‘u Haake, Haley Nakamura and Ceidi Nobriga.
The team finished last season with a 13-1 regular season record and went 1-2 at the state tournament, good for seventh place.
Lahainaluna will surely be aiming higher in 2012, and the team is well on its way to higher success. They are unbeaten (5-0) nearing the halfway point of the MIL regular season.
Leading the way for the Lady Lunas this year is senior Brenna Nakamura, the reigning MIL Player of the Year, playing second base and hitting in the heart of a power-laden line up.
Junior Jessica Wallace has moved in behind the plate at catcher, classmate Hope Morikawa is in the circle doing the pitching, Hayley Nakamura plays shortstop and hits behind her sister and freshman Tobi Ann Bonifacio has emerged to roam the center field grass like a seasoned veteran.
Thus, the Lady Luna defense up the middle is solid and, save for Bonifacio - who Coach Lei calls a talented representative of her family - experienced.
Rounding out the lineup are Kekuu "Toots" Haake at first base, Lithe Pokipala Waiohu at third, Lyla Talaroc-Kaniho in left field and Kaua Arcangel in right.
Returning players include juniors Mehana Chang and Chalice Dela Cruz, and sophomores Janah Pagatpatan and Tracey Anne Panlasigui. Freshmen Ceidilee Nobriga and Rhyn Lendio round out the roster.
Coach Lei, who doubles as the commissioner of the Maui Girls Softball Association, makes coaching and teaching softball a year-round endeavor, and her efforts are clearly paying dividends.
"Hope (Morikawa) has definitely picked up her pitching in the off-season, and the whole team has worked on their hitting as well," she said.
"We are strong defensively - we emphasize this - and we have good team speed, and so we're hoping that we can take it to the next level by taking it one game at a time," explained the coach.
She went on to express her appreciation to Loreen Akiona and the Lahaina Fast Pitch Softball organization, Lahainaluna Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch and Trainers Jon Conrad and Mikala Pinho, and the Lahaina community for their support of the Lady Luna team.
Coach Lei also saluted her husband, Flint Nakamura, who has groomed and manicured the facility over the years to make this field of dreams a definitive reality.
The focus now begins to be more acute as the MIL Playoffs, slated for April 18-20, and the HHSAA State Tournament, to be played May 2-5, in Honolulu, draw closer.