Hawai'i falls to Stanford, 8-5, to finish fourth
By Edward de la Fuente
Special to The Advertiser
By Edward de la Fuente
DAVIS, Calif. — Regardless of what happened in the final match of its season, the University of Hawai'i knew it would leave the NCAA women's water polo championships disappointed.
Perhaps some of that transferred to the pool, where the Rainbow Wahine failed to overcome a sluggish start and lost yesterday's third-place game to Stanford, 8-5, at UC Davis' Schall Aquatic Center.
Third place, though, would not have been much more of a consolation, considering UH had come tantalizingly close to an appearance in the national title game.
A day after nearly overcoming top-seeded Southern California before losing their semifinal match, 9-7, the Rainbow Wahine fell behind Stanford by as many as five goals and never challenged for the lead.
"It was difficult to get back into the swing of things," UH coach Michel Roy said. "We wanted to go to the final. We played an amazing (semifinal) game. We did our best in so many aspects of a game we felt we should have won."
The Rainbow Wahine (18-12) finished in fourth place for the second straight season, as three fellow members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation placed in front of them. Like last year, UCLA won the national championship, knocking off Southern California 9-8.
The UH players, having accepted their fourth-place plaques, could only watch and wonder what might have been.
"We put it all in the water yesterday," Roy said. "Today, we wanted to prove we deserved to be in the final."
Stanford (24-5) carried the same mentality, though. The Cardinal displayed it by scoring five unanswered goals on the frustrated Rainbow Wahine, who often had to settle for outside shots when their interior passes were continually denied.
While Roy cited the team's lack of depth compared to its competition, UH's players didn't feel that their first-half lethargy was the result of a hangover from Saturday's defeat.
"We came out and played well, I thought," said freshman Kelly Mason, who scored four of UH's five goals. "We still had a lot of time left to pick it up."
UH showed some life in the third quarter, scoring twice and pulling within 6-3. But with less than a minute remaining, a shot by Stanford's Lauren Silver deflected off goalkeeper Meike De Nooy and came to rest underneath the crossbar of the net and was ruled a goal.
The palpable disappointment among the UH contingent indicated how high expectations have become in Roy's program.
With only two seniors on this year's team, the Rainbow Wahine know they will carry lofty hopes into next season, though any aspirations of a championship will have to go through the three MPSF foes that finished ahead of them in this year's tournament.
"Our conference is so tough, but we played well this year," De Nooy said. "If we played like we know we can play, this could have gone any way."
HAWAI'I 1 0 2 2—5
STANFORD 2 3 2 1—8
Goal scorers—Hawai'i: Kelly Mason (3), Kristy Bagnall, Iefke Van Belkum. Stanford: Scott Shafer (2), Jessica Steffens (2), Lauren Silver (2), Jacquelyn Gauthier, Nancy El-Sakkary.
First Team: Kelly Rulon, UCLA (MVP); Emily Feher, UCLA (GK), Anna Sieprath, Hawai'i; Scott Shafer, Stanford; Moriah Van Norman, USC; Iefke Van Belkum, Hawai'i; Lauren Wenger, USC; Thalia Munro, UCLA.
Second Team: Christina Hewko, Stanford; Katherine O'Rourke, UC Davis; Brittany Hayes, USC; Bronwen Knox, Hartwick; Erika Figge, USC; Meike DeNooy, Hawai'i (GK); Lauren Silver, Stanford; Kacy Kunkel, UCLA.