USC the likely opponent if Wahine can beat LMU


POSTED: Thursday, May 07, 2009

The goal is to do what they've never done: win a semifinal at the NCAA championship.

After that, anything is possible.

That was the mentality the Hawaii women's water polo players packed when they left for College Park, Md., earlier this week. The fourth-seeded Rainbow Wahine (18-8) open the tournament against fifth-seeded Loyola Marymount (24-7) in the last of four quarterfinals tomorrow at Eppley Recreation Center.

Hawaii rallied past LMU 8-7 on March 23, with Saara Majuri's shot finding the far corner of the goal with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left for the deciding score. The Wahine, with a 9-2 edge in the series against the Lions and a 2-4 record at the NCAA tournament. UH finished fourth in 2005 and 2006, opening with wins over LMU the first year and UC Davis in the 2006 quarterfinals. Both years, Hawaii lost in the semis and the third-place match.

“;They are a good team, a very solid opponent,”; Hawaii coach Michel Roy said of LMU. “;They have a great scorer in No. 12 (senior Nicole Hughes), who has 121 goals.

“;Hopefully, we have the talent and the ability to beat them. But we have to show up and work hard. We've been working on better technical tactics and game speed. If we follow through on those, we should meet USC.”;

The top-ranked Trojans (24-1) won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship April 26 at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Center. The Wahine didn't see USC in the tournament, but did play the Trojans twice during the regular season, losing both — 11-3 on the road and 7-6 in Honolulu.

The second loss was more disappointing than the first in that Hawaii led late but was unable to hold on. It was the fourth time that has happened this season, and Roy hopes that disturbing trend didn't make the trip this week.

“;Maybe it's a mental weakness at the end,”; Roy said. “;We have these small moments where we've allowed easy goals.”;

» Inside Hawaii: The Wahine are making their seventh appearance in the national tournament, third since the NCAA began sponsoring the sport in 2002. Hawaii is 2-4 in the NCAA tourney, having won both first-round games but losing in the championship bracket semi and third-place contest.


» Inside LMU: The Lions are making their seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament (25-7), having only missed out in 2006 and '08. LMU's best finish was second in 2004 when losing to USC for the championship, the first time the school had a program play in an NCAA title game.