Talented Luna boys soccer team off to a great start
LAHAINA – There is distinct Latin flavor to the 2018 Lahainaluna High School boys soccer team – we’ll call it “salsa caliente” or hot sauce. Eighty-five percent of the student-athletes on the roster are of Mexican descent, and a solid leadership core of seniors and juniors from this group have led the team to a sizzling start of the current Maui Interscholastic League campaign.
Senior team captains Jacob Gonzalez and Fernando Cedillo, along with classmate Brian Murillo, are four-year veterans among the Latino conglomerate for the Lunas this year. Juniors Brian Gonzalez, Elias Gonzalez and Pablo “El Dinero” Rico are three-year players on the team. Senior Taylor Salmon is also a three-year returnee, and classmates Adolpho Cruz and Jake Kealoha, and junior Ramon Cedillo as well as sophomore David Sanchez are two-year players.
Rounding out the roster for longtime head coach Sam Aki – now into his 25th year at Lahainaluna – and assistants Robyn Rodriguez, Francisco Rodriguez, Steve Piscano, David Ramirez and Maricio Flores are juniors Andres Perez Martinez, Santiago Vera, Jesus Alvarez and Fabiano Ramirez; sophomores Brian Sandoval, Jose Garcilado, Jose Lara and Adrian Thomas; and freshmen Emi Fabila, Tobyn Brown, Kevin Villalobos and Sage Steelman.
It comes as no surprise then that the Lunas have been moving up the MIL standings over the last four years as the Latino influence in the program grows with each passing season. As futbol (soccer) is the world’s most popular sport – particularly in Mexico, where so many of the current players and their West Side families trace their ancestry – it has been a natural progression for the quality of the Luna teams to improve.
Last year, Lahainaluna finished the season in third place, just out of the playoff picture. The team is currently tied for second with a 2-1-1 record coming to the midway point of the 2018 season.
The Lunas play a high-pressure style game – especially at midfield, where they use their team speed to their advantage – and the goalkeepers are athletic and experienced.
Most especially for this team, the lifelong familiarity with the sport and the deep leadership unit will propel them to higher levels than ever before in the MIL.
“This has been a big surprise as the team has come together in a big way. It is a young team with good skills and talent that will battle to the end,” said Coach Sam last week. “We send a big mahalo out to the Old Lahaina Luau, Tony Golis, Kula Produce and Maui Chemical Supply, as well as to the community, for their donations in fundraising for the team.”
The regular season runs through the first week of February, with the MIL hosting an Oahu Interscholastic League school in a “play-in” round to advance to the state tournament on Feb. 22-24 at the Waipio Soccer Peninsula on Oahu.