The University of Hawaii women’s soccer team hit the field this week to open training camp where on Thursday the Rainbow Wahine held their first morning workout of the season on the grass practice field of Manoa’s lower campus.
The first thing anyone that followed the team last year will recognize first is the size of the roster. Last season, the team fielded just 20 healthy players, meaning it was impossible to hold an 11-versus-11 scrimmage. This season, the ‘Bows have 30 players and was able to scrimmage to close out their first practice of the season on Wednesday afternoon.
Among the key returnees for the team are sophomore forward Daelenn Tokunaga, forward/defender Cristina Drossos, and goalkeeper Alexis Mata to name a few.
For Mata, she enters her senior season coming off of a successful 2018 where she was named Big West Honorable Mention, ranked No. 1 in the Big West with nine wins, and recorded six shutouts, tying her for second in the conference. UH played their way to a 9-7-1 season, 4-4 in the Big West Conference, finishing just a game shy of reaching the BWC tournament.
“I spent five years here. My whole college career has been put into this program. All the blood, sweat, and tears, and I want to go out leaving an impact on this program, the best possible way I can. I’m ready to show that I am a leader on the field , and I think last year was a good start, and this year I’m ready to just end sprinting. End on a the highest not possible and help my team get to the conference tournament,” Mata told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
According to head coach Michele Nagamine, who enters her ninth season, Mata’s growth since her arrival at UH has been extraordinary.
Last week, Nagamine’s grandfather passed away, and moving forward she feels that Mata’s connection to her goalkeeper takes a snapshot of the reach that Mata has on those that watch her play and play with her.
“One of the last things he told me was, Lex is going to have an unreal season. She’s not gonna get any goals scored against her this year. It’s her senior year, so even in his last moments, he was so excited to go to Waipio and watch our team play because he knew that she’s been one of his favorite players for years now. So, that kind of influence she has and the ability to impact us is massive,” said Nagamine.
The Rainbow Wahine will host 10 matches this season at the Waipi’o Peninsula Soccer Stadium, including their first matches of the season beginning on Thursday, Aug. 22nd against the University of Southern California.
The matchup against the Trojans will be the first in the series since 2004.
Last season USC finished third in the Pac 12 with an 8-2-1 record, while finishing the season at 17-2-3 overall while advancing to the third round of the NCAA Championship Tournament.
UH will follow up with a match against the University of San Francisco on Monday, Aug. 26.