Rainbow Wahine Soccer Rack Up Numerous Big West Honors
(Hawaii Athletics) - The 2019 season for the University of Hawai'i soccer team was historic after reaching the Big West Tournament for the first time in program history. On Wednesday, it went from not only historic but memorable as the program made a real impact on the end of year awards in the Big West Conference, claiming two majors awards and seven All-Conference selections.
Coach of the Year:
For the first time in her nine-year career as the head coach of the Rainbow Wahine, Michele Nagamine was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year. After missing the tournament a year ago, Nagamine led the 'Bows on a charge in 2019 where they went 4-1-3 in the conference to secure the program's first-ever berth into the conference tournament. Nagamine saw her team win its first-ever Big West opener and start its road conference schedule with a win in 2019, and led the team to its best win percentage ever in conference play.
Under Nagamine's tutelage, UH was second in the conference in goals scored versus conference opponents with 14 and ranked third in goals allowed with 10. UH was also one of the more aggressive teams of moving the ball around, ranking second in the league in assists with 14 and racked up a total of 42 points on the year, also second in the conference.
Goalkeeper of the Year:
After earning all-conference honorable mention honors in 2018, goalkeeper Alexis Mata led the conference in saves this season, tying her career-high with 96. She also led the conference in minutes played at 1636:11, ranked second in save percentage at .800, and was third in shutouts with five.
As her career nears the end, Mata ranks in the top three in virtually every goalkeeper category at UH including minutes played, saves, save percentage, shutouts, and numerous others.
First Team Selection:
UH had three selections to the all-conference first team with sophomore forward Kayla Ryan, freshman midfielder Eliza Ammendolia, and Mata.
Ryan led the team in goals scored with seven, and each of those seven goals was scored against conference opponents. Ryan also registered two matches this year with multiple goals.
Ammendolia, a late signee by the 'Bows worked her way from being bench player to role player to starter, and now a first-team selection. She had a spot start at North Dakota and started again against Washington State and never looked back. She was the most significant threat for UH, accounting for a team-high four assists, and consistently drew double teams for her knack of creating opportunities for her teammates.
Second Team Selection:
Senior forward Kayla Watanabe and sophomore defender Elena Palacios were tabbed as second team selections. Watanabe, a graduate transfer from Idaho, returned home to Hawai'i to play her final season and didn't disappoint as the lead attacker for the offense. She tallied three assists and two goals on the season but required so much attention it left opportunities open for her teammates.
Palacios was named to the All-Freshmen squad last season and lived up to her reputation. As a towering presence in the middle of the field, Palacios was the lead defender and stopper for a defense that only allowed 10 goals in eight conference matches. She was the only field player in 2019 to tally over 1500 minutes, accounting for a total 1,629 minutes of action. The only match this season she didn't play every minute of was against UCLA, where she played 82 of 90 minutes.
Freshman forward Kelci Sumida came to UH as an offensive threat and played her role finishing second on the team in goals with five. Sumida snaked her way through the defense, creating opportunities for her and her teammates throughout the year. Sumida led the 'Bows in game-winning goals with three and provided a one-two punch with Ryan on the attacking edges.
Sumida and Ammendolia added to their resumes by also being named to the All-Freshman team.