Round one of the High School Club National Invitational Tournament (NIT) was an absolute thriller. Three of the four D1 games were decided by four or fewer points and there were upsets as well.
The day began in the 40s and it rained up until kickoff. South Bay and United headlined Pool A play and the majority of the first half was played in United’s end. South Bay capitalized approximately 18 minutes in, as Manaia Moala dotted down in the corner and Mercie Vivao slotted a stellar conversion from the sideline. Minutes later, United, the defending NIT champion, built off a series of penalties to put its strongside wing into the corner, 7-5 to South Bay into the break.
The South Bay defense was on-point, driving United backward, but the home side did well to hold onto possession and after a couple of linebreaks, Makena Taumoepeau scored in the corner, 10-7 to United.
South Bay was building into United’s end but then a penalty allowed the Utah side to relieve pressure with a kick. BUT, the kicker tapped the ball before sending it to touch, thus handing over possession. The Spartans did not waste that opportunity and sent Siniva Mailo in for the game-winner. Puni Skipps kicked the extras for the 14-10 win.
Also in Pool A, Utah’s Wasatch upset Pleasanton 17-10 to get its first win in an NIT.
Fallbrook and Kahuku played a championship-worthy game, and the Warriors did well take advantage of Raiders’ penalties in the first half. Approximately 12 minutes in, Tiahna Padilla scored beneath posts and Abbey Savin converted for a 7-0 lead that would stand until after regulation.
Kahuku head coach Nusi Tukuafu was dismayed with his side’s pace of play, indicating that slow starts are a perpetual bane and some first-game jitters were to blame. But in the final five minutes, Kahuku regained its shape and made a final push. There were just seconds remaining when Fallbrook brought down a lineout and all that was needed was a kick to touch. Instead, Kahuku got a yellow-card advantage when a player mistakenly threw the ball into touch, and the Hawaiian side ran it in for a centered try. Irie Farley’s conversion tied it up and there the game ended, 7-7. That makes Pool B standings interesting.
On the other side of Pool B, Lamorinda upset Sacramento 38-15 to get its first-ever win at an NIT.