Kahuku first OIA
champ in water polo
By Jack Danilewicz
Special to the Star-Bulletin
A lavish pre-game speech wasn't included in Kahuku's preparations for yesterday afternoon's match with Roosevelt in the first Oahu Interscholastic Association girls' water polo championship.
Indeed, the message that Alee Thompson and her Kahuku teammates heard from the Red Raiders coaching staff all season had already hit home.
"They drilled it into our heads that only one team could win the first OIA championship," Thompson said. "It made us want it more."
None more than Thompson, who responded by scoring three consecutive second-half goals to break open a close encounter as Kahuku prevailed 5-2 on a history-making afternoon at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex on the University of Hawaii campus.
The scenario that was played out was the one that Kahuku co-head coaches Aukai Ferguson and Paul Brewer envisioned long ago. The Red Raiders finished 11-0 in the first season sanctioned by the OIA after seven seasons of club water polo.
Additionally, all signs point toward a girls water polo state championship taking place at this time next year, according to Castle athletic director Richard Haru, the OIA's coordinator for water polo.
For now, a celebration of the OIA championship will have to suffice. Ferguson and Brewer took a victory swim -- albeit not altogether voluntary -- afterward.
"We've been pumping them up for it all year -- maybe too much," said Ferguson. "Almost every practice would begin with, 'This is the first ever (OIA championship) and if you win it, no one can take that away from you. You would always be the first champions.' "
Although they were impressive in a 13-5 win over Kaiser in semifinal action earlier in the day, the Red Raiders were hard-pressed to get untracked in the championship match.
"They came out a little tight and luckily they fell back on their fundamentals, and that got them over the hump," said Ferguson.
Roosevelt opened the scoring 38 seconds into the match on a goal by Gina Rae Inoue. Kahuku answered with 3:40 left in the quarter on a goal by Tiana Ahue, however, and the teams then battled through a scoreless second period.
"At intermission we focused in on just relaxing," Brewer said. "They were kind of intimidated to drive through and made only safe passes."
Added Thompson: "We weren't playing up to our potential. We let it loose after that."
Thompson gave Kahuku the lead for good only 1:01 into the second half when she took a pass from Keala Whitford and beat Roosevelt goalie Ashley Furtado with a shot inside the left post.
"I had a nice pass from (Whitford) and it was a perfect opportunity," Thompson said.
Thompson's second goal -- coming with 3:21 to play in the third -- gave the Red Raiders some breathing room, and they continued their momentum into the fourth quarter when she scored only 13 seconds into the period.
That was all the offensive output needed for senior Kahuku goaltender Trudianne Huish.
"After the half, we started to play up to our potential," Huish said. "Our defense was really good this game. There weren't any one-on-nobody shots."
Roosevelt cut the lead to 4-2 with 3:58 remaining on a goal by Leilani Warren, but the Kahuku answered moments later with a tally by Rachel Kunz to close out the scoring.
Roosevelt finished its season at 9-2, with both losses to Kahuku. Its two defeats aside, the Rough Riders gave up no more than two goals in any one match.
"We're proud of the defense," said Roosevelt coach Susan Nishioka, whose team beat Kalani 5-0 in its semifinal match in the afternoon. "They (Kahuku) probably had a little more depth than we did and a little more experience. We have ten kids, and four had never picked up a ball until four months ago, so they did pretty good."
Oahu Interscholastic Association