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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beating UCLA rejuvenated 'Bows


By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

WOMEN'S WATER POLO SCRIMMAGE

WHO: No. 5 Hawai'i (9-6) vs. No. 1 USC (12-1)

WHEN: 4 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex

ADMISSION: Free

PARKING: $5

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It might have been more memorable if UCLA had not been involved in the longest women's water polo game in NCAA history a week earlier, but this one meant more, particularly for Hawai'i.

Before the Rainbow Wahine's 9-8 victory in six overtimes over the Bruins last weekend, their season was in danger of sinking to the bottom of the pool. Hawai'i was ranked fifth and had a winning record, but the 'Bows did not feel like winners.

That changed following a few frantic hours against their sport's most successful program, coached by one of Hawai'i's own. Punahou graduate Brandon Brooks, an Olympic goalie, inherited the UCLA team this season when Adam Krikorian left to coach the national team. The Bruins have won the last five NCAA Championships.

UCLA squeaked by fourth-ranked Cal 7-6 a week earlier, in eight overtimes. Actual playing time was 54 minutes and 53 seconds almost twice a regular match. In that one, both teams scored in one of the two mandatory three-minute overtime periods. Those are followed by three-minute sudden-death periods.

The Bruins and 'Bows were scoreless throughout the extra periods until Monika Eggens blasted the ball in with 2:05 left in the fourth sudden-death period. Running time was 47:55.

"It was our defense," said junior captain Saara Majuri. "We've been working a lot on crashing back for the ball and we finally got the hang of it in that game. If we can play defense like that the rest of the year and score more goals on offense we can be difficult to beat."

It was the Rainbow Wahine's second win, ever, over UCLA. The first came last year, after utter futility in Hawai'i's first 11 seasons. That kick-started the 'Bows' drive to the NCAA Tournament and ended the Bruins' NCAA-record 46-game winning streak.

Hawai'i hopes this will provide the same inspiration. It got five "world-class" goals from Carmen Eggens who did not start and a "solid" defensive effort for four quarters against UCLA, according to coach Michel Roy. That was followed by phenomenal defense as the teams went scoreless the first five overtimes before Carmen's younger sister found the net from 10 meters out.

"It takes one player who wants to score that goal and Monika is a driven individual," Roy said. "You could see her, looking at the net, picking up the ball she had somebody on her on top of her and she just lifted above her and shot over her and the goalie."

The sophomore from Canada now has 25 goals, second to her sister and Dutch senior Leonie Van Der Molen, who each have 27. Junior goalie Serena Bredin, another Canadian, added 16 saves to her total with a flawless, sometimes spectacular, performance in overtime that anchored the 'Bows' decisive defensive effort.

Through it all, the players were too inspired to tire, according to Breden.

"It was long the longest game I've ever been in," she said. "But I think I was on adrenaline the whole time.

"All of us knew that to go to the NCAAs we had to have that game. Everything was riding on that game."

Including the Rainbow Wahine's fragile confidence.

"It was a big win for us," Monika Eggens said. "We had trouble at the beginning of the season. Hopefully this turned it around."

It will be a while before the 'Bows can be sure. They scrimmage top-ranked USC Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Center, go away a week later and close the regular season at home against No. 2 Stanford (April 11) and No. 7 San Jose State (April 17).