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HPU soccer wins first seed in Las Vegas

by Jimmi Hemmenbach, staff writer

 

Sixteen players from both HPU soccer teams competed with 48 other teams, all amateur league winners, in the Silver Mug Invitational Tournament March 17 in Las Vegas.


Because of the intense schedule, tournament games were shortened to two 30-minute halves. HPU’s first game, against the University of El Salvador (Los Angeles), started well, as HPU forced their opponents to commit numerous errors. The opening goal came in the 17th minute when midfielder, Jimmi Hemmenbach’s free-kick was directed into the goal by left midfielder, Michael King. Five minutes later, Hemmenbach dribbled past a defender and sent the ball into the goal’s far corner, making the score 2-0. In the second half, HPU was pressured but secured the 2-0 victory.


An hour later, HPU played Tyneside United- Nevada, which dominated the first half. Tired HPU players weren’t able to work as a team or take advantage of several opportunities to score.

Nevada had the same problem, and the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

The last game on Saturday afternoon was played in horrible conditions as thunderstorms moved in over the Nevada desert. HPU seemed paralyzed by the weather, while opponent Arizona Aquemini took advantage of it 15 minutes into the game. HPU lost the ball in the midfield; Arizona counter attacked, and scored. That 0-1 became the wake-up call for the Hawai‘i team. Iovo Stefanov tied the score with a drive from outside the penalty area just before halftime. HPU dominated the second half, with Hemmenbach curling the ball into the far corner to give HPU the lead, 2-1. At the end of the game, Cristian Clemente scored HPU’s third goal of the game for a 3-1 final score.

Sunday morning saw HPU headed up against the German Army from Texas. The 8 a.m. game started slowly, with HPU’s Hemmenbach finally breaking out with a precise shot past the Texas goalie. After that, HPU controlled the game completely. Daniel Hook received a beautiful pass from Christopher Zachrison just before halftime, and with a perfect finish made the score 2-0. In the second half, Hook scored HPU’s third goal of the day for a 3-0 final score.

Three hours later, HPU faced the Colorado Rocks in their last group game. HPU started off well as Robert Persson gave Hawai‘i a 1-0 lead with a brilliant narrow angle shot. Just minutes later, Stefanov was ejected because of a careless tackle against a Colorado player. The penalty galvanized HPU, as “Aki” Akihide Adachi received a long ball, and in a face off with the goalie scored a distance shot. HPU continued to control the game, despite playing one man down, and in the second half Persson increased the lead to 3-0, the final score.

Coach Scott Liedtke was impressed: “The way we worked for each other was impressing. We never gave them a chance to get back in the game,” he said.

HPU qualified for the playoffs as the first seed of 16 teams. “A remarkable achievement,” said Liedtke. “This is the first time HPU has reached the playoffs, and beyond that, been first seeded. It’s fantastic,” he said, smiling.

In the first playoff game, HPU faced Bakersfield F.C. (California). The opening of the game was tenuous, with Aki’s chance to score denied by the goal keeper. After 15 minutes, Marcos Santos was ejected for getting his second yellow card. Bakersfield started the second half with a great shot that was out of reach for HPU goalie Tunvall. The HPU players tried to create opportunities to even the score, but when Anthony Giralmo was ejected with 15 minutes left to play, Bakersfield increased its lead to 2-0. Clemente gave HPU some hope when he made it 2-1, but there were so few minutes left to play, that was the final score.

“ The achievement we made in Las Vegas was outstanding,” Liedtke said. “Anyone who understands the strength of the tournament will understand how fantastically well we did. This is definitely the best thing that could happen to the soccer program,” he added.

 
 

 

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