Sure, it’s been almost a month since the Hawaii women’s soccer team pulled off soccer’s most basic and simultaneously confounding act — scoring a goal. Team morale fell and dubious records were raised as the Rainbow Wahine absorbed more than their share of punishment en route to a 2-8-1 nonconference record.
But all that could change in 180 minutes this weekend, when Western Athletic Conference play kicks off at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
UH (2-8-1) hosts Boise State (3-7-1) tomorrow, then meets Idaho (9-3) on Sunday. After eight WAC games, UH needs a top-six finish among the nine teams to qualify for the league tournament, which the Wahine missed last season.
The bottom line: With only four home WAC dates, UH cannot afford to go 0-2 this weekend and expect to qualify for the WAC tournament.
Coach Pinsoom Tenzing is convinced his team is ready and recovered from road drubbings to ranked teams California and Stanford, and gut-wrenching losses at home, where the Rainbow Wahine went 1-5.
"We have a terrific team. I’m still in the hunt for the first-place position. I’m not looking at the sixth-place position," Tenzing said. "The team is ready. What’s remarkable about this team is, although they’ve had some really severe downs, they’re (feeling) high. They’re lovely kids. They haven’t given up. And as coaches we haven’t, either."
WAC SOCCER OPENING WEEKEND
» When: Tomorrow and Sunday
The Wahine finished seventh in the WAC last year, and were picked for that spot in the preseason poll. Statistics are even less glamorous, as UH currently ranks last in the league in shots, goals, assists, and goals allowed. In fact, UH’s 31 goals allowed is more than twice the eighth-place WAC team in that category.
Yet the team is feeling confident knowing they faced top-tier competition, then managed a 0-0 draw at Pacific last Sunday, ending a five-game losing streak. However, a school-record five-match scoreless streak lives on.
"After having that losing streak, the tie gives us a little bit of reassurance that we can play with good teams," said UH co-captain Chelsea Deptula, who Tenzing recently moved back to fullback. "I think going into WAC, we have a greater confidence going against Boise. Boise’s always been a good team. I think we’re so excited to start WAC season already and turn this year around."
A big part of that tie was the play of UH goalkeeper Kanani Taaca, who recorded a career-high nine saves.
Taaca exuded confidence at practice yesterday. She’s ready for a redemption year after missing out on the WAC tourney her first year as the starting goalkeeper.
"We knew we had a hard preseason. … But now that’s in the past, and we’re really excited for WAC," Taaca said. "It was really tough for us, mentally and emotionally (to miss the tourney). Really, to be in the last two in the conference and not make it, that’s kind of embarrassing. So I think this summer we really worked hard and that was one of our goals, to at least make it to the tournament, and therefore make it as a WAC champion. So it’s really at the back of our minds right now and we’re really looking to get our ticket into the WAC tournament."
Utah State, which was picked to win the conference, has floundered at 3-4-4. Others have impressed, like Louisiana Tech (10-2), which has won its last eight matches. UH will see one of the top scorers in the WAC this weekend. Idaho’s Chelsea Small is second with seven goals.