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Keawekane Invited to Train With U14 U.S. Women's National Soccer Team
By Rodney S. Yap / HIsportsfolio
She is Maui's first female soccer player to be invited to train with the U14 United States Women's National Soccer Team.
Ilihia Keawekane, a 13-year-old midfielder with Pono Soccer Club, was selected to the U14 Youth National Team after impressing coaches at the Hawaii Olympic Development Program Sub-Regional Event on Oahu, March 27-31.
"It's an honor to have this opportunity," said Ilihia, daughter of Amos and Mitzie Keawekane. "I'm very proud of myself. It took a lot of hard work and I thank my coaches, my family, and my teammates, for supporting me and helping me."
Kewaekane's one-week journey begins on Mother's Day, May 12. The Kamehameha 7th-grader will join 47 of the nation's best female soccer players in her age group at the University of Portland in Oregon. By the time the camp ends on May 19, Keawekane must prove to head coach April Kater that she is worthy of one of 36 roster spots on the U14 US Women's Youth National Soccer Team.
"One of my goals was to get to the highest level. I didn't know there was such a thing as a national team, so my goal was to make the regional team, but now that I am here, my goal is to make the national team and stay there."
If Keawekane is chosen, she will attend two additional training camps, from Sept. 14-21 and Dec. 8-15, with a squad that will represent the US on the international stage. All travel expenses and accommodations are being paid for by US Soccer.
"Ilihia has the raw talent. She's strong, she's fast, she has a solid kick, she's tenacious," said '00 Pono SC's BJ Medeiros, who has coached Keawekane the last five years. "With that and the teammates she is constantly around who are just as competitive and always pushing each other, she's ready.
"This is the result of the progress these girls are making together. They can look back and see we have a teammate who has made it to a national camp and their hopes and dreams are the same. She is the first one and I'm sure she won't be the last from our club and maybe more Hawaii kids will follow."
Keawekane credits her teammates and coaches for their help and support.
"Leialoha (Medeiros) inspires me because she's one of the best soccer players in Hawaii. She pushes me to get better and that makes me stronger, faster and more skillful."
In preparation for the camp, Keawekane continues to train with Coach Medeiros and ’00 Pono twice a week. She gets additional training 2-3 times a week with Valley Isle Soccer Academy coaches Aleks Filipović and Rebecca Filipović for individual training and tactical film sessions.
Keawekane said she has been working with "Coach Aleks and Coach Rebecca for the last three years."
She also attends speed and agility training with David Kamalani from GetFast.
"I want to play Division I soccer, that's my goal."
Both Filipovićs are state coaches for the Olympic Development Program and worked with the regional staff in March to identify and recommend players, including Ilihia, for selection to the next level.
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