Punahou girls claim ILH water polo title
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
Punahou's girls water polo teams always have been ferocious on defense, yielding little space for opponents in the pool, and always have been quick on offense.
The Buffanblu this year are no different. They scored the game's first 12 goals in yesterday's 14-1 win over host 'Iolani for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship. But the entire team's passion for the game and each other is something that coach Ken Smith has never seen, and it could possibly drive Punahou (8-0) to a third straight state title.
"From the first player on the team to the newest player on the team, they just have so much passion to play," Smith said after yesterday's victory. "They come to practice with that same sort of passion every single day. Practice is an absolute joy because of the enthusiasm and work ethic that comes every single day. Our practices are very intense and it's an intensity they feed off of."
Shayna Price scored four goals and Megan Steele had three for Punahou. The Buffanblu led 12-0 after three quarters with their in-your-face defense that yielded few looks for the Raiders (4-4).
"As a guard, I really look for the people guarding the perimeter to help back with me, that I don't get caught on the wrong side of something," said Punahou junior Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert. "I think that's what makes our defense so strong , we're really able to talk a lot and work together."
On offense, there was usually Punahou player who was first down the pool, receiving outlet passes from the back and goalkeeper before 'Iolani's defense was able to set up.
"Even from our people that aren't true swimmers, when they fast break, they fast break with intensity and that passion again," Smith said.
Goalkeeper Courtney Miller said the team's speed is an asset.
"When they get down there and they flip over and we make eye contact, you can kind of see if they want me to pass it to them or not," Miller said. "We don't really have to say anything."
Skye Kusao scored for the Raiders on a penalty shot with 6:19 left in the game. Both teams are in next week's state tournament with the Raiders making their first appearance since they won the state title in 2007. Coach Ian Kusao said his team had opportunities against Punahou, but couldn't convert.
"We got to be resilient and put this game behind us," coach Kusao said. "I think we'll be able to bounce back."
In yesterday's third-place game, Pac-Five scored the game winner with 1:49 remaining to beat Kamehameha, 8-7. Both teams finish the season 2-6.
The 12-team state tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday at the Central O'ahu Regional Park. The O'ahu Interscholastic Association and Big Island Interscholastic Federation tournaments are today.