UHâ€™s Punzal Packs Scoring Punch
Mari Punzal is used to having success at all levels of her stellar soccer career. The senior midfielder for the University of Hawaii soccer team is hoping to save her best performances for her final collegiate season.
The Kapa’a native, a 2007 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, helped lead her squad to back-to-back state championships in 2006-07.
Her final year at Kapalama, she led the Warriors to an unbeaten record (11-0-2), including the game-winning goal in the title match.
The honors began to kick her way as well. She was named state player of the year in 2007 by both the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser.
Nicknamed, “Modz,” Punzal liked playing for the Warriors so much, she
stayed with the same nickname at college, earning a scholarship to play for UH.
Actually, it was more of a decision based on her love for Hawaii and playing close to home where her family could see her play.
And she’s flourished, more so than most women soccer players on the Garden Isle.
In her freshman year at UH, Punzal started all 20 matches she appeared in, seeing time at center mid-fielder, striker and outside defender.
She garnered nine points that year, with three goals
and three assists. What made her entrance into the collegiate ranks even more impressive is how quickly she contributed to her team’s performances.
In her first game in a UH uniform, she recorded an assist and a goal – and it wasn’t just against any old school. It was in a triumph over the 26th-ranked team in the country, Kansas. It was also the program’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent.
In her sophomore year, Punzal was even better, on her way to becoming a first-team all-WAC performer. She also was named to the
academic all-WAC team.
Punzal was only one of six players to start in all 19 games, picking up three goals and two assists.
During her junior year, the momentum kept going for her both on the field and off, as she again earned first-team all-WAC honors for her play and all-WAC academic honors.
Obviously a very intelligent young woman, she is a family resources major at Manoa.
Punzal also seems to have a flair for the dramatic. Louisiana Tech knows this all too well, as she nabbed the winning goal against the Bulldogs.
Now in her senior season, she hopes to make enough of a mark that she’ll be considered for the next level.
And what a way to start it off, by being named to the 2010 WAC preseason all-conference team. Punzal will be counted on to be one of the main leaders as the team looks to bounce back from a 2009 campaign in which it tallied a losing mark for just the second time in the last nine years, and even failed to qualify for the WAC Tournament for the first time since 2000.
Says UH head coach Pinsoom Tenzing: “Mari is the most remarkable human being. She is always happy, positive and in good cheer. And she’s a fabulous soccer player to boot.”
(Good pun, coach, intended or not.)
Punzal’s senior season began Aug. 20 with one goal in mind: a WAC championship in November.