Wahine hoping for pool party


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Everything seems possible now.

Until this season, Hawaii thought of UCLA as a four-letter word. As in L-O-S-E.





        » Height: 5-foot-10

» Class: Senior


» Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand


» Position: Utility


» Quotable: “;Before ... I don't think we believed we could do it (beat UCLA). But now that we have, we know we can.”;




Until Feb. 7, the Rainbow Wahine water polo team had never defeated the Bruins, a streak that had reached 32.

And, until this season, Hawaii had never had a player reach the 200-goal career mark.

Things have changed. The No. 4 Wahine, hosting the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament for the first time, feel it.

UH (16-7, 3-4 MPSF) is on a roll, having won its last seven, including a huge 6-5 victory over No. 5 California on March 28. After being unable to hold on in the final minutes in three previous matches, the Wahine edged the Golden Bears on senior Kelly Mason's lone goal—the 212th of her career and 46th of the season—with 14 seconds left.

As big as that shot was, it was nothing compared to the six goals she scored against UCLA in a 13-12 win two months ago. It erased nearly a decade of frustration for the Hawaii program as well as ended the Bruins' program-best 46-match winning streak.

It also gives Mason, born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, the faith that it can be done again. The Wahine get their chance tomorrow when taking on third-seeded UCLA in the 4:30 p.m. tournament match at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Center.

“;It's good that we'll be playing at home,”; said Mason, whose mother, Erica, will see her play for the Wahine for the first time this week. “;It's good that we're playing UCLA at the start.

“;It was huge to beat them finally. Before it was, 'Oh, it's UCLA' and I don't think we believed we could do it. But now that we have, we know we can.”;

A lot is riding on Mason's arm. Hawaii probably needs to finish at least fourth to earn an NCAA berth for a second time in three years.

“;We live and die by what Kelly does,”; UH coach Michel Roy said. “;She's a very talented player, a great outside shooter.

“;We've depended on her. We have all the pieces to the puzzle to be successful.”;

The 21-year-old Mason has honed her talent at the international level for years, first on the New Zealand junior national team and now with the senior team. In 2007, she was No. 2 in scoring at the world championships, and she will compete this summer at the World University Games in Rome.

“;My family is very water-based,”; she said. “;I was a distance swimmer, but I started playing water polo on my older sister's team. I loved it and stuck with it.”;

The most prolific scorer in UH history, Mason came into the season already as the all-time goal leader, having passed Beth Novick's 171 midway through last year. She rifled in her 200th in an 11-10 loss to top-ranked Stanford.

“;She's star-quality,”; Roy said of Mason. “;We'll be losing 3 to 5 goals a game when she leaves. We can't replace her overnight.”;

And maybe not for another few weeks. The NCAA championship is May 8-10 at Maryland.