POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 29, 2012
Kanani Taaca picked a pretty good time to have one of the finest matches for a goalkeeper in Hawaii women's soccer program history.
Despite getting outshot by an overwhelming 34-3, the Rainbow Wahine salvaged a 0-0 double-overtime draw in their season finale at UC Irvine's Anteater Stadium in Irvine, Calif., on Sunday.
That was largely due to Taaca. In her final career game, the senior recorded a career-high 15 saves — including stopping an Anteaters penalty kick five minutes into the first overtime.
"I'm exhausted. I'm overjoyed," Taaca said in a postgame phone interview. "The team played so well, and to end my last game the way it did, that was a great way to go out."
After being picked to finish last in the preseason, UH finished tied for sixth out of 10 teams in its debut in the Big West Conference (3-5-1), and 8-9-3 overall. Sunday's match was the first positive result (win or draw) for UH on the road in BWC play.
UH coach Michele Nagamine said the team would carry the four-year starter Taaca's memorable farewell — her save count was tied for fifth in the Big West record book — well into the offseason. The Wahine finished with their most wins since 2008.
"When I look back and think on all the college games I've seen, this has gotta be in the top five of keeper performances," Nagamine said. "At UH, probably the best that I've seen. This was just insane. Some of the stuff she pulled out today was insane. This was one of the best all-around keeper performances I've seen, ever."
UH knew going into the week that it would not make the four-team Big West tournament. UCI (9-8-4, 5-1-3), however, had plenty to play for.
The Anteaters kept the pressure on constantly on their senior day, and held UH without a shot on goal. Taaca was still recording saves in the final moments of the second 10-minute overtime period.
She was mobbed by teammates and autograph seekers afterward, Nagamine said.
"I'm thrilled to send Kanani out on a note like that and a game like that. It's more than I could have ever dreamed of for her. Fantastic," Nagamine said. "Stopping that penalty kick in overtime? Who does that? You know, she was the woman."
Taaca said she wanted to go out on a PK after struggling to stop a single one at practice this year. But she noticed the kicker, Rachel Wood, had mannerisms similar to UH's designated kicker, Chelsea Miyake, right down to kicking it to the right.
"To be truthfully honest, when the ref blew his whistle for a PK, I was ecstatic," Taaca said. "I said, ‘Kanani, if you're going to go out, a PK is the way to end your season. … A make-or-break moment.' "
It was Taaca's third shutout of the season, and 10th in her career. Her 15 saves Sunday were three off from tying Demarre Sanchez's program record of 18 set against SMU in 2000. Her previous best was nine.