Luna boys soccer team off to exciting start
LAHAINA — After going winless last season and finishing near the bottom of the Maui Interscholastic League standings, the Lahainaluna High School boys soccer team has turned the tables to ring up a 3-1-1 record to remain in the hunt for the Division I title at the halfway point of the current campaign.
The Luna boys have suffered through several inglorious seasons of late, but those tough times are quickly forgotten with this year’s resurgence.
“We haven’t had this kind of excitement with the boys program in recent memory,” said team spokesman Mark Tillman.
“We had a great turnout for the initial team tryouts –over 40 boys came out — and the current 22 on the roster is a great mix of experience and athleticism. It’s a talented group of players — a nice blend of Latin and local student athletes — blessed with speed and ball handling skills.”
To be sure, Lahainaluna soccer is fired up with the opportunity to practice and play on the state-of-the- art Athletic Field, the Imu.
But perhaps more, the boys are inspired this year, as the season has been dedicated to teammate Jovani Lopez, who passed away due to leukemia in March.
“Lopez would have been a junior this year, and the team has truly been inspired by his memory,” said Tillman.
The coaching staff is experienced as well with head coach Sam Aki leading the way, assisted by Steve Pisacano, Kawika Aki, Ishmael Esparza, Keola Maielua and Tillman.
“We’ve also got a good flow going with the HYSA (Hawaii Youth Soccer Association) program guided by Sky Delaney getting the boys ready for the high school team,” added Coach Mark.
The Luna staff welcomed back 17 returning players to open up the current season led by four-year seniors Kanaina Raymond and Jose Esparza, as well as third-year veterans Brett Tillman, Chase Rogers, Elton Rivera, Victor Pacheco and Jose Hernandez. There are also ten two-year returnees that add experience to the team.
The remainder of the Lahainaluna roster is made up of seniors Stephen Adolfson, Roger Guzman, Ben Pietch, David Ramirez and Taylor Norling Schneider; sophomores Noah Camara, Nestor Gomez, Rhys Lendio, Julian Bel-Robert, Reece Sinenci and Erich Skrotzki; and freshmen Sergio Gallardo, Keoni Miranda, Francisco Jimenez and Javier Ramirez.
The 12-game MIL regular season runs through the end of January and will be followed by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament to be held at Central Oahu Regional Park soccer complex in Waipio on Oahu.
“It’s just been a phenomenal season so far and optimism definitely reigns. And all of us are inspired with the dedication of the season to the memory of Jovani Lopez, and I think it’s made a difference,” Coach Mark concluded.