HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO
Kahuku’s OIA water polo run hits 5
The Kahuku girls water polo team successfully defended its Oahu Interscholastic Association title for the fourth time with an 11-4 victory over Kapolei yesterday afternoon at Central Oahu Regional Park.
Since the league's first tournament in 2003, the Red Raiders have won all five OIA championships, but the tournament they want most to win lies ahead of them.
In the three years there has been a state water polo championship, Kahuku has placed second twice and third once. This year's tourney opens Thursday.
"We're hoping our momentum helps us continue winning when we play in the states," said Gina Ahue, who led Kahuku with six goals. "We worked hard all season for this chance. We know we will compete against tough teams at states, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
So is Kahuku's head coach.
"Last season we played a real close match against a very strong Kamehameha team, so I think we are very capable of winning," Red Raiders coach Aukai Ferguson said. "We got a lot of talent on our team and multiple weapons. It's just a matter of us executing and playing hard."
Kahuku scored early on goals by Ahue and Minnie Whitford to lead 2-0 after one quarter. Kapolei evened the score at 2-2 in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but the tie was short-lived, as Kahuku went back in front with a slim 5-4 halftime edge.
The Red Raiders (15-0) dominated the second half, scoring six goals while holding Kapolei scoreless. Ahue managed five of those goals, but credits her teammates for creating openings for her to score.
"The team played exceptionally well today," she said. "My teammates got the ball to me at the right times, then cleared a path for me to get in scoring position."
Whitford kept Kapolei off balance defensively by scoring three goals, one in each of the first three quarters.
"Winning the OIA championship is a proud achievement," said Whitford. "We knew that Kapolei was aiming to knock us off. But we just played a great game and everyone contributed."
Nicole Hagi led Kapolei (12-3) with three goals, and Ashlie Sales-Salem added one.
"We appreciate Kahuku's efforts. They beat us soundly," said Kapolei coach Dexter Lee. "They made good adjustments in stopping our offense. But we got another week to prepare and get ready for states. Hopefully we'll play them again."
In the battle for third place, Roosevelt won handily over Leilehua, 8-4, behind the scoring of Keola Kamakang and a strong third-quarter rally.
The Rough Riders broke a 2-2 halftime tie by knocking the ball into the net four times in the third quarter to take the lead 6-2. Kamakang scored three of her four goals in that third quarter to lead the charge
From there, Roosevelt tacked on two more scores in the final quarter to improve its record to 13-2 while Leilehua fell to 8-7. Both teams receive berths in the state tourney.
Lana Dang scored two goals for Roosevelt, a third-place finisher in last year's state championships. Marissa Young and Bori Stoyenova each added one goal.
Roosevelt coach Susan Nishioka says she is happy with the team's improvement in recent years as the Rough Riders head into state tournament play.
"We have made great strides over the years with our program. We're trying to follow this trend we had starting with sixth place, fifth, fourth and third. So we're hoping for something better now," said Nishioka.