Kamaile Crowell had her choice of colleges but once UCLA offered her a spot on the team, she went to L.A.
Crowell making a splash
The Punahou grad jumped at the chance to play for the UCLA water polo team
It didn't matter that she wasn't getting a scholarship; nor did she care about playing time and the possibility of redshirting.
When Kamaile Crowell was offered a spot on the UCLA women's water polo team, her choice for college was immediately made.
"Everyone goes to UCLA," said Crowell, who graduated from Punahou in 2004. "It's the best of the best."
The Bruins have won the last three national championships in women's water polo and are riding a 29-game win streak into today's game against Hawaii at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.
Crowell is a senior driver for the Bruins, who are 21-0 this season and ranked No. 1 in the country. The fourth-ranked Rainbow Wahine are 13-4 and lost their first conference game of the season Monday to Stanford.
When Crowell was wrapping up her second straight ILH player of the year award and leading the Buffanblu to the first state event in '04, Hawaii was just starting its ascent into the upper echelon of teams in the country.
PROFILE: KAMAILE CROWELL
» School: UCLA
» Year: Senior
» Position: Driver
» High School: Punahou '04
» Honors: Two-time ILH player of the year; First state tournament MVP in 2004; four-time ILH swimming champion.
» Major: Sociology
Crowell by the numbers
Kamaile Crowell's career statistics (through junior season):
"They weren't nearly as good when I was in high school," Crowell said. "UH is a really talented team now. They have a lot of really strong and tough players."
The Rainbow Wahine qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2005, but didn't make it last year despite finishing the season ranked fourth in the country.
They are off to a 6-1 start in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and provide a legitimate threat to the Bruins.
"They're fighting to make the tournament and that makes them a dangerous team," Crowell said. "Especially with how they did against Stanford, they are going to play us tough."
Hawaii lost by one to the second-ranked Cardinal on Monday to snap a six-game winning streak. The same Stanford team took UCLA to overtime earlier this year, but couldn't put an end to a winning streak that is reaching historic proportions.
UCLA's 29 wins in a row dates back to last year and is the third longest streak in school history. The Bruins have won national titles in each of Crowell's first three years and were 33-0 her freshman season. She could become the first Bruin to be on four national title teams, but says it's the furthest thing from her mind.
"I try not to think about it," Crowell said. "We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. Just take it game by game and keep working as hard as we can and hopefully it'll pay off at the end."
Crowell was the best player coming out of Hawaii in '04, and could have gone anywhere and been a four-year starter.
2004 Punahou graduate Kamaile Crowell and her UCLA water polo team bring a 29-game win streak to Hawaii today.
She gave up that opportunity to be a part of a legendary program and not once has she regretted her decision. Playing at UCLA has taught her there's much more to the sport than just scoring goals.
"There's so much more to being on a team like this than just playing," Crowell said. "I've learned to be a role player and just enjoy the experience of playing with such great players."
Crowell has played with three different Olympians and against many more.
However, her toughest opponent might be a girl who's a freshman on the UC San Diego team.
Crowell's sister, Hanalei, is listed as an attacker for the Tritons, who played against the Bruins earlier this year in a tournament in Michigan.
It wasn't anything new to either of them as they also played against each other in high school when Kamaile was a senior. Hanalei went to Kamehameha and the two played against each other in the first state championship game ever in high school.
"We're not that competitive," the elder Crowell said. "We've always gone to two different schools and really had two different experiences."
Crowell's experience at UCLA has been everything she imagined it would be, and then some.
She made the traveling squad her first year and didn't redshirt. She has scored 28 goals in her career, including nine this year, which is one short of tying the most she's had in one season.
Her biggest thrill was winning the national championship as a junior. It was the 100th national championship won by a UCLA team, making it the first school to reach that mark.
"There was a ceremony for us and we got a lot of exposure," Crowell said. "It was really special."
Crowell's entire tenure in college has been special and admits to being "scared to death" about life after college. She will graduate in May with a degree in sociology and will always look back at her time at UCLA as the best of her life.
"I hope that everyone who goes to college gets a chance to experience something like I have experienced," she said. "I had no idea it would be like this."