Posted with permission, article and pictures, courtesy of University of Hawaii Hilo
Okamura’s Recruiting Class Includes 4 D-I Transfers, 3 D-II Newcomers and 5 Freshmen
The 2022 Hawai`i Hilo women’s soccer team returns eight starters and a number of letterwinners from a 2021 team that shared a Pacific West Conference title and earned its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
Add a loaded recruiting class to that mix.
Head coach Gene Okamura signed four NCAA Division I transfers, three D-II transfers and five true freshmen to a team that will report to camp in Hilo the first weekend of August. Included in that group is two-time Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year Teani Arakawa, who was the third leading scorer at South Dakota State last Fall as a freshman.
“It’s a pretty deep class,” Okamura said. “We had great chemistry last year and our next challenge will be to merge this group with an experienced returning roster. That will be key, because you can have talent but if you don’t play well together in the system you won’t get the results.”
Teani Arakawa prepped at King Kekaulike High School (Maui), twice winning the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year award. She was also the 2020 All-Hawaii Offensive Player of the Year. She scored five goals, had four assists (14 points) for South Dakota State, starting in nine of the team’s 22 contests. The Jackrabbits went 17-4-1 on the year, advancing to the first round of the NCAA playoffs, where Arakawa had an assist in a loss to Pepperdine. She was an Second-Team All-Summit League pick and was also named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.
Miya Clarke is another name that will be familiar to the state’s soccer fans. Clarke was a two-time BIIF Player of the Year at Hilo High School, helping to lead the Vikings to three BIIF championships. She then spent two seasons at Peninsula College (Port Angeles, Wash.) where she helped lead the Pirates to the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) championship. She was named the NWAC Tournament MVP and was a two-time conference all-star. She spent the spring of 2021 at Cal Poly Humboldt (Division II) before returning the Big Island.
Grace VerHage brings impressive credentials to Hilo after a standout career at Division II Ferris State (Mich.). VerHage led her team in scoring with 13 goals, nine assists and 35 total points, pacing her Bulldog squad to just their second NCAA postseason appearance in school history. Ferris State defeated eventual national champion Grand Valley State to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title and earn the NCAA berth. The Ostego, Mich. native scored 19 goals in her three seasons at FSU, had 17 assists and 54 total points. Additionally, she was named a Second Team Co-SIDA Academic All-American last Fall.
In addition to Arakawa, Okaumura’s other Di-I signees are Adree Johnson, Samantha Sierra and Keely Rooker. Johnson played in 15 matches over two seasons at Utah State and Sierra played one year at the University of Portland. Sierra is a native of Long Beach, Calif. Rooker signed with Western Illinois and spent a redshirt season there. She is a native of Portland.
Zariah Nogales is the third Division II transfer in the class of 2022. Nogales played at Montevallo (Ala.), where the Falcons won the 2019 Gulf South Conference title. She also played at Montevallo during the short spring COVID season of 2021 before making her way to the Big Island. Nogales is a native of Placentia, Calif.
Leading a talented freshman class is Alia Bournay (Northville, Mich.). Alia was a starting defender on a Michigan Hawks team that was ranked as high as #4 in the nation for ECNL. The class also includes Natalie Schumann (Murrieta, Calif.), Mahlia Aspray (Wildomar, Calif.), and goalkeepers Courtney Linn (Guelph, Ontario) and Lauren Retsky (Woodland Hills, Calif.).
These dozen recruits and the returning Vulcans will begin practice in early August on UH Hilo’s brand new turf field. Their first match of the 2022 season will be on Sept. 1 (Oahu) against Cal State East Bay, and their first home contest is slated for Sept. 17 against Hawai`i Pacific.