With Bundled Goals, Tokunaga Gives UHH Women Exactly What They Need
Some interested, if not impatient, spectators showed up on Sunday to take a look at the UH-Hilo men’s soccer game.
A few players from the women’s soccer team hung by the fence on the other side of the baseball field, and then others gathered until there was a group. Finally, trainer Gene Okamura had to break through the Vulcans, driving them away.
A school rule may limit attendance, but the Vulcans’ zeal to participate in the action was understandable.
“We are delighted to finally play against someone other than ourselves,” junior forward Daelenn Tokunaga said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
After a 13-day hiatus just as the team warmed up, UHH (3-2) welcomes Azusa Pacific (5-2) to a Pacific West Conference doubles program. The men’s game will be at 2:30 p.m., but it’s Wednesday at noon that the ladies will play, as the UHH’s burgeoning murderous transfer forward makes her home debut.
Okamura announces Tokunaga for his passion for football.
“I love to play soccer and it’s one of the few things that really gives me confidence,” Tokunaga said.
After getting used to the schedule over the four-game spring season, Tokunaga’s confidence on the pitch was evident. She leads the conference teams in goals with five goals in five games – Azusa has two players with three goals in seven games – including two goals each in the last two games as UHH continues a three-game winning streak.
“I think the last three games I’m finally starting to find my rhythm and put away goals,” she said. “I feel more comfortable around people and also taking pictures.”
The infusion of goals – Tokunaga is responsible for more than half of UHH’s nine goals – provided a much needed boost to the program. Tokunaga’s next goal will be the highest for the UHH in a season since Kristine Pasek scored six in 2014.
“When we brought her in, we thought she was going to produce and do the things that she does now,” Okamura said.
Tokunaga doesn’t do it alone.
“We try to play for each other, not just with each other,” she said.
And there was a time when she thought about doing that elsewhere.
The former Pearl City, Oahu, star – the Chargers won the HHSAA Division I title in 2015, his first season – originally committed to playing Division I college football in Saint Mary’s, Calif. Before deciding to stay home and play for UH-Manoa.
“Growing up in Hawaii, I feel like it’s every girl’s dream to go, but it was so hard to make a decision at such a young age,” she said. .
Playtime didn’t seem to be much of an issue with the Rainbow Wahine. Tokunaga played 34 combined games in 2018 and 19, starting 11 and scoring two goals in his debut season.
“I was not very happy, the style of play was not for me, personally,” she said.
Okamura’s approach is more his style.
“I wanted a coach that I liked,” she said. “I wanted to have fun with it because I know these will be my last years of playing football.
“In DI, they force you to play,” she said. “D-II (college football) is always competitive, but it’s not that competitive.”
That’s not to say that Tokunaga – an aspiring police officer and self-proclaimed original body – doesn’t feel pressure, but it comes from within.
There was no pressure, she said, when UH-Hilo faced UH-Manoa in the spring and played a draw.
“I wish we played them this season,” she said. “It’s a different team, but so are we. Honestly, I think we can compete with a lot of DI schools.
Maybe next season?
For now, it’s the start of the Western Pacific Conference season.
“Hopefully we can take one game at a time and win our conference,” she said. “That’s our goal, to reach the NCAA tournament. We believe it is achievable. This is what we are looking for. “