HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kamehameha's Kiane Taparra passed over the defense of Kahuku's Gina Ahue in a 5-3 win yesterday.
Kamehameha tips Kahuku for title
In a hard-fought championship game featuring two of the state's most physical teams, the Warriors wanted it just a little more.
Top-seeded Kamehameha defeated second-seeded Kahuku 5-3 to capture the 2006 Local Motion/HHSAA Girls Water Polo State Championship. It is the first state title for the Warriors in the sport.
A first half that was defined by hard fouls and physical play set the tone for the entire match. Neither team generated many quality scoring opportunities, as Kahuku tried to slow down the pace to take away Kamehameha's breakaway chances.
"I was very impressed with Kahuku's strategy," Warriors head coach Danielle Mulford said. "This was the hardest time we've had trying to swim against a team all year. We are the faster team, but today Kahuku was able to slow us down and we were unable to set our offense."
Kamehameha's offense, which scored a combined 36 goals in the opening two games of the tournament, had to work for every shot.
Kamehameha senior Mahinamele Reyes was the primary Warrior attacker, scoring a goal to open both the first and second quarters. Midway through the second, Kamehameha was dealt a major blow, as junior standout Karie Nickle, the Warriors leading scorer in their semifinal win over Roosevelt, was ejected when an official ruled she kicked a Kahuku player. Despite the loss, Kamehameha was able to hold it together and lead 3-1 at the half.
"Our team was very down when Karie was ejected," Mulford said. "Some of the girls were crying, but luckily our leader Hanalei Crowell stepped up and told each girl that we were going to win this game. We displayed great mental toughness like we have all season."
The second half played out much as the first half did, with Kahuku trying to run down the shot clock and Kamehameha looking for any window to make a dive to the goal. Kahuku's strategy was to limit the number of possessions each team had, banking that it would do more with fewer opportunities. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, by the time they began initiating their offense, it was scrambled and inefficient.
All four second-half goals occurred when one team had a man-up advantage, and when Warrior Nanea Fujiyama found the net with 1:39 remaining in the game, Kamehameha earned the title.
Kahuku was led by Noe Wicker, Meme Moody and Gina Ahue, who each scored one goal.
After the match, Mulford acknowledged what this first state championship meant for the school.
"At Kamehameha it's all about a winning tradition. Walking through the halls you can see every other sport has state trophies, and now water polo is a part of that same tradition," he said.
In the third-place game, Roosevelt beat Hilo 3-2.
Kamehameha-Hawaii topped Kapolei 10-6 for fifth place, and Lahainaluna rolled over Kalani 10-4 for the consolation title.