Hawai'i sinks UC Irvine in home opener, 10-6
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
It took one half and a fourth-quarter scare for fifth-ranked Hawai'i to find its way in a 10-6 water polo victory over 13th-ranked UC Irvine yesterday.
The Rainbow Wahine (7-6) hope the win in their home opener at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex is a sneak peek at their season.
The first 12 matches were a rugged — only one match against an unranked opponent — road adventure. Yesterday's win, against an 8-8 UCI team that kept coming back for more, eventually became what fourth-year UH coach Michel Roy envisions.
Hawai'i lost nine players from last year, but has a wealth of talent, international and otherwise. That was not apparent in the first half, which ended 4-3 UH.
"Our girls just have to get to know each other," Roy said. "By the second half of the game you could see that we started dominating defensively, countering well. On offense they were playing us tight so we were a little more patient and started to get a few more kickouts (penalties against UCI)."
The final 5:41 was what Roy wants to see in the postseason. After letting the Anteaters score the first two goals of the fourth period to cut the UH advantage to 7-6, the 'Bows were brilliant.
UH All-American Iefke Van Belkum ended the third period with a touch pass inside to Mari Yogi, who tipped the ball in. After Irvine scored twice in a span of 38 seconds to open the fourth, Van Belkum ruined their celebration — to say nothing of rally — 8 seconds later by driving left and lofting the ball into the right corner.
"I think we lost our concentration," Van Belkum said. "We were like three goals ahead, thinking that's good, we have some distance. When they scored the goals our concentration came back. We had to put them away and we did."
The 'Bows shut out UCI the rest of the way. The final UH goals came on a penalty shot by Van Belkum and a sweet drive by Roosevelt graduate Brittany Dames, who spun around her defender near the net and lofted the ball over the goalie when she came out to challenge.
Van Belkum, a sophomore from the Netherlands, scored three goals as did junior Anna Sieprath, one of five UH players from New Zealand. Freshman Kelly Mason, another Kiwi and the 'Bows' leading scorer, had two. All-America goalie Meike De Nooy had nine saves. She was coming off a school-record 17 saves in the 'Bows' last match, against UCLA.
Hawai'i improved to 3-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which features nine of the country's Top 10 teams. Irvine dropped to 1-3, despite getting two goals apiece from Jessica Lewis, Robyn Kaake and Gianna Rossi.
Yesterday's match was the first of seven straight at home. All three top-ranked teams (USC, UCLA and Stanford) will be in Manoa the next three weeks. UH also has a series of international exhibitions during spring break. That is when Van Belkum expects massive change.
"We'll have a lot of games here and practice time together," she said. "That would be a good week to improve a lot of things."
The Rainbow Wahine spend the final month of the season back on the road, with the MPSF Championship April 27 to 30 and NCAA Championship May 12 to 14. Hawai'i was fourth at the national championship last year, its best finish since the sport's inaugural season.
Emily Cox, a junior who arrived at UH in January, saw her first action yesterday. Cox, majoring in architecture, had to sit out while her transfer was cleared. Her last match was Jan. 28, for New Zealand, in the Commonwealth Games.
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