When Lionel Mills and Chandler Alo grew up playing club soccer for the Maui Strikers, pre- and post-practice conversations would sometimes drift to the future.
Perhaps the most intriguing question the pair of friends pondered was: What would they be doing when high school soccer arrived?
Dominating, we now know, is the answer.
King Kekaulike’s Lionel Mills (left) and Kamehameha Maui’s Chandler Alo were voted Maui Interscholastic League co-Players of the Year by the league’s coaches. They played on the same club soccer team as youths.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
Mills, a sophomore sweeper for King Kekaulike High School, and Alo, a junior forward for Kamehameha Maui, are co-Maui Interscholastic League Players of the Year after balloting by the league's coaches.
"That's great," Mills said. "I have trained with him for a while. We both came from the same organization, the Maui Strikers, and had great coaching. Timmy Akina was my coach and (Alo's) as well since he picked me up at under-10s.
"We used to talk a lot, we used to go watch the high school games and be, like, 'Wow, big players, we want to be there.' "
Alo, who now plays club soccer for Maui United, said sharing the award with his childhood friend is special.
"It's something I wanted for a while and worked towards it," the 5-foot-7, 140-pound Alo said. "It feels really great to share it with Lionel because I know how good he is and it means a lot.
"When we were little we always wanted to see what it was like to play with the older guys in high school, so it's fun to be there now. That's a big one. It's weird because we grew up together and now we are both back to where we started with each other."
The coaches designated Mills as the league's best defender.
"We just tried to shut everything down that we could," Mills said. "I think our defense was the strongest part of our team."
Alo was clearly a focus for Na Alii when they faced the Warriors.
"Definitely, we had to mark him up at all times," the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Mills said. "Him and Brennan Joaquin."
Other Kamehameha Maui players on the first unit include Joaquin, a freshman forward, Daniel Quenga and Kainalu Kealoha.
Mills is accompanied on the first team by Na Alii teammates Kolomona Salomon, Jake Jacobs, Cameron Baker and Micah Tateishi.
The MIL All-Star first team is rounded out by Lahainaluna's Rhys Lendio and Baldwin's Nick Lawrence.
Na Alii's defense was tough to crack, said Alo, designated by the MIL coaches as the league's top offensive player after scoring 12 goals in 14 league games for the championship team.
"He communicates well, they work well together with each other and they know how each other plays," Alo said.
The battles between Kamehameha Maui (11-2-1) and King Kekaulike (10-1-3) went a long way toward deciding the MIL chase that the Warriors won by a point.
"It was good because we have a very strong offense on Kamehameha and they have a very strong defense," Alo said. "It was just whoever came out to play that day. It pushes you to do better."
Recalling their one-on-one battles brought a smile to Alo's face.
"He usually tells me if I have a nice shot and I tell him that he got me every time he takes the ball from me," Alo said.
Na Alii lost just two seniors and the Warriors had three.
"We had not too many seniors and everyone is young, so for the next four years it is going to be a good battle," Alo said.
Kimo Correa, in his first season, was named MIL Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to the MIL crown for the first time since 2009.
"He really brought us all together and helped us to realize what our potential was," Alo said. "He helped us through it."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org