It took the St. John’s School girls soccer team nearly the entire 80 minutes, but when the whistle blew, the Knights had beaten the four-time defending champion Notre Dame High School Royals in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam championship game 1-0.

In the 78th minute, Knights junior Kaia Malakooti drilled a 20-yard cross-field shot that sailed just out of the reach of Royals goalkeeper Haley Salas and into the side of the net.

“It feels unreal,” Malakooti said. “I still can’t believe we won. Like, ‘oh my God!’”

Early in the first half, Malakooti failed to convert on three scoring chances, sending two over the crossbar and another snagged out of the air by Salas. At first, Malakooti was mad at herself, but with help and support from teammates, she brushed off the disappointment and regained focus. 

“I was beating myself up so hard,” Malakooti said. “My team is just - ‘oh my God’ - the best. They had my back. After every miss, anything I did bad, they just kept pushing me.

“My goal is thanks to all of them. It’s a team goal.”

After her freshman year, Malakooti had hoped for an opportunity to knock off Notre Dame. But after last season was canceled due to coronavirus restrictions, it took an extra year before she could call herself and the Knights champions.

“I just love soccer,” she said. "This just means the world to me. I always wanted to win a soccer championship and, my team, I am just so grateful for them.”

Even though the season was only four games long and the league consisted of just four teams, Malakooti is thankful for the opportunity, one she will cherish for the rest of her life.

“It might have been a short season, but nothing but thankfulness and gratefulness that we got to have some fans,” she said. “Just to have a season and be out on the pitch means everything.”

Knights freshman goalkeeper Ha’ani Byerly, who in four games did not let a single ball find the back of the net, was happy and shocked at the outcome.

“It hasn’t really fully hit me,” said Byerly, the champion goalkeeper who added a fourth shutout victory to her resumé. … “My focus is 100% on the ball.”

Crediting her backline with unwavering support, Byerly shared that her fullbacks helped her pull off a perfect season.

“It was all my defense, in my opinion,” she said. … “Today, they made sure that they recovered well and, whenever I went out, I know that someone’s there to watch the goal for me.”