HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO
Red Raiders in final today vs. Warriors
At this point in the season, talent alone does not win championships.
The second-seeded Kahuku Red Raiders used their tremendous depth to defeat a game Hilo Vikings squad 7-3 yesterday in the semifinals of the Local Motion/HHSAA Girls Water Polo State Championships at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.
Kahuku will meet Kamehameha in today's final.
Kahuku head coach Aukai Ferguson used the depth to his advantage, making multiple substitutions throughout the match to ensure that the Red Raiders would be the fresher team.
"If they gave awards for team depth, we'd win first place," Ferguson said. "Our players work hard and have earned the opportunity to play."
In the first half, Kahuku's suffocating man-to-man defense made it difficult for Hilo to create any quality shots.
The third-seeded Vikings failed to take a shot on goal for the first 4 minutes of the game, quickly falling behind 3-0.
After back-to-back Hilo goals, Kahuku's star sophomore Gina Ahue found the net twice as the first half ended with the Red Raiders up 5-2. Ahue led Kahuku with five goals in the game.
"It was important for us to get off to a strong start," Ferguson said. "We played Hilo in the semifinals last year and we knew they were a good team, so we needed to get a lead and settle the nerves."
Hilo outplayed Kahuku for much of the second half with a stingy defense that shut down a relentless Red Raider attack. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they were unable to convert any opportunities on the offensive end, while Kahuku made the most of its limited shot attempts.
Despite running their season record to a perfect 15-0, Kahuku will be the heavy underdog against top-seeded Kamehameha. The Warriors were a 17-2 winner over Roosevelt in the first semifinal of the afternoon.
The Warriors used a balanced attack to dominate the Rough Riders. Karie Nickle led Kamehameha with five goals and was one of nine Warriors to score a goal.
Ferguson knows his team will have to play a perfect game to pull off the upset.
"Obviously, Kamehameha is the team to beat," Ferguson said. "They are hungry because they probably should have been in this same position last year."
The championship game between Kahuku and Kamehameha begins at 2 p.m. at UH.
In yesterday's consolation play, Kapolei beat Kalani 5-1 and Kamehameha-Hawaii beat Lahainaluna 13-8.