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Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

P R E P _ S P O R T S

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Members of the Pac-Five girls' water polo team work out yesterday
at the Mid-Pacific pool. Members are, front to back, Crystal Thornburg
(La Pietra), Kara Takekawa (HBA), Elani Dean (Lutheran)
and Corina Chun (University).

making a splash

A victory over perennial power
Punahou last week has given the
Pac-Five girls' water polo team
the confidence it needed


By Tim Crouse
Special to the Star-Bulletin


THEY come from many different schools, but under the guidance of coach Pedro Vecchi, the girls who play water polo for Pac-Five are becoming a team.

The Wolfpack won their first Interscholastic League of Honolulu game in three years last Wednesday when they shocked perennial power Punahou, 4-3, to close out the first half of the season. It was just the third loss for the Buffanblu since the start of the 1997 season.

For Pac-Five, it's a win that backed up everything Vecchi has been telling his players the past two seasons.

"The hardest part of coaching here has been to change their attitude," Vecchi said. "When I got here they all thought they were the worst players and wouldn't be able to beat anybody."

Vecchi said all the reasons for doubting were valid: the pool they practice in is small, the team doesn't have enough players, the players have less experience than the other schools-but he simply told his team: "You have yourselves. No matter how good the (other schools) are, we can be exactly the same as them."

He told his players they had what it took to do better.

"That's my goal - not to win, but to improve, the way they play and the way they live. And I think we're reaching that goal," Vecchi said.

The toughest obstacle facing Vecchi and the Wolfpack is the players come from seven different schools.

"The biggest challenge is trying to play all together as a team because we all come from different schools and there are different schedules," said senior Mai-Britt Puttler, who attends Mid-Pacific.

"We don't see each other outside of the season and that's definitely a big challenge," junior Jessica Isaacs of La Pietra said. "It's hard to get together to do conditioning and the stuff other schools can do."

No matter what the negatives look like, Vecchi finds the positive aspects of each situation.

"By not spending each day together and not knowing each other that well, it's kind of a bad thing for us," Vecchi said. "But on the other hand we have more options for recruiting girls and they get to know different girls from other schools that they never would have known."

Vecchi's attitude has made an impact on his players.

"Before the Punahou game he was saying how everyone counts and how everyone can make a difference and that really motivated us to do well," Puttler said. "He brings a lot of pride (to his job)."

The win over the Buffanblu, highlighted by a three-goal performance by Michelle Tsutahara and 14 saves by goalkeeper Isaacs, was a huge step for the Wolfpack.

"It's something we've been practicing for the past three years," Puttler said.

Puttler said the emotion she felt after the win was "pure joy." Isaacs said she cried because she was so happy.

Vecchi has been confident all along, but with a win behind them, the players also feel it now.

"I think we can win again, but we have to play like we did at Punahou," Puttler said. "We have to have confidence. I think that was our main weakness.

"We have all the skills - it's just putting it together as a team and having the confidence to do it. So now that we have one under our belt, I think we have the confidence to do it again," she said.

Vecchi said he isn't worried what other teams try to do in a game.

"The last game, we didn't think about Punahou or who we were playing against or that we lost 10-2 last year. We thought about us. First we play us. If we don't make mistakes, they can't score," he said.

With a team made up of mostly juniors, Pac-Five will have a veteran returning squad next season.

But with their newfound confidence, they know they can make another big splash before this season is over.

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