Nickle raises Occidental from deep end of pool
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
Beneath the surface is where Karie Nickle is at her best.
The Occidental women's water polo player recently completed her junior season — adding to a decorated three-year career at the Los Angeles school.
Nickle, a 2007 Kamehameha graduate and Honolulu native, helped the Tigers to a runner-up finish in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference and an appearance at the NCAA Division III National Championships last week in Kenosha, Wis.
Occidental went 3-2 at the tournament and lost to Cal Lutheran, 10-5, in the national championship match.
"It was a good season," said Nickle, who had 51 goals, 74 assists and 77 steals. "We were underdogs for most of the year because we started the season without our goalie and a few of our better players."
The Tigers' struggles were evident early. They opened the season with four straight losses, won a game, then lost seven in a row.
"We were 1-11 to start the season and that was kind of rough," said Nickle, who spent the fall semester studying abroad in New Zealand.
"I wasn't able to meet with the freshmen until just before the season," said Nickle, one of four co-captains on the team. "Coming into the year, it was scary. During the first couple of tournaments, we weren't sure how we would lead the team and how we would motivate them, but after a while it all came so naturally, especially with the other three captains. It was a learning process."
Occidental, which was ranked third in the nation in the preseason, got back on the winning track with a 14-8 win over Carthage on March 12.
"At the beginning of the season, we just wanted to do the best we could," Nickle said. "But, later we began setting mini-goals like beating a team by three, or practicing our outside shots in a particular match. We set out with small goals, saw how we were playing against those teams and we began to think that we had a chance of actually winning it all."
The Tigers won four straight and 11 of their final 14 to close out the regular season. Nickle said a turning point came in mid-April after they split a pair of matches against Cal Lutheran and Pomona-Pitzer.
"In that one week we played against Cal Lutheran on Wednesday and Pomona on Saturday and those are two of the better teams," Nickle said. "That was a tough week for us, we felt like there was a lot of pressure on us to do well. Going into the Cal Lutheran match, we were all kind of doubting if we could win or not and when we beat them by four, that gave us more confidence for the rest of the year."
Occidental dropped a 12-11 decision in overtime of the SCIAC Tournament final to Pomona on May 2, but rebounded with a strong showing at nationals.
Nickle, who earned First Team All-SCIAC honors, was one of three Tigers to earn All-Tournament Team honors at nationals. Nickle and fellow junior Julie Monday were First Team selections while freshman Nanea Fujiyama, a 2009 Kamehameha graduate, was named to the Second Team.
"We played on the same high school team for two years," Nickle said of Fujiyama. "We were teammates the year that we won states when I was a junior, so I knew how she played. She did really well this season."
Fujiyama, who plays the center position, led the team in goals scored (70) and was also among the leaders in assists (33) and steals (44).
"We all kind of forgot that she was a freshman because she was so important to our success this season," Nickle said.
With no seniors on its roster, the future looks promising for Occidental.
"We're a really young team; we have six freshmen, two sophomores and four juniors," Nickle said. "We did well this season, but hopefully we can build upon this for next year."
• UCLA sophomore Stephanie Kono (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) finished in a tie for 10th place with a score of 7-over 220 at the NCAA Women's West Regional, which ended Saturday at the par-71, 6,115-yard Stanford Golf Course. Kono shot rounds of 72, 73 and 75 to pace the Bruins, who finished second, nine strokes behind Arizona. Portland State freshman Britney Yada (Waiākea '09 of Hilo) finished tied for 49th at 16-over par 229. UCLA will compete in its 10th straight NCAA Championships, which will be held May 18-21 in Wilmington, N.C.
• Denver freshman Kimberly Kim (formerly of Pāhoa) finished 11th with a score of 13-over 229 at the NCAA Women's Central Regional, which ended Saturday at the par-72, 6,417-yard Otter Creek Golf Club in Columbis, Ind. Kim shot rounds of 73, 81 and 75 to finish 10 strokes behind. New Mexico State senior Britney Choy (Leilehua '06 of Wahiawā) shot 21-over 237 to finish in a tie for 38th place and Tulsa freshman Kristina Merkle (Moanalua '09) tied for 45th at 22-over 238.
• James Madison (Va.) sophomore Nicole Sakamoto (Kalani '08 of Honolulu) finished in a tie for 54th place with an 8-over 224 at the NCAA Women's East Regional, which ended Saturday at the par-72, 6,321-yard Ironwood Country Club in Greenville, N.C. Furman (S.C.) junior Jackie Hilea (Moanalua '07 of Honolulu) tied for 78th place at 13-over 229.
• Pacific (Ore.) junior Max Bonk (Hawai'i Prep '07 of Kamuela) shot 3-over 74 in yesterday's opening round of the NCAA Division III Men's Championships in Hershey, Pa. Bonk, who made the turn at 1-under, is in an 11-way tie for 18th and five strokes behind the leader. The 72-hole tournament concludes Friday.
• Northwestern sophomore first baseman Paul Snieder (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning of Saturday's 11-4 win over Indiana. It was Snieder's fourth home run in as many games and sixth of the year. He finished with three RBIs, scored three times and drew three walks for the Wildcats (21-27, 10-8 Big Ten).
• San Diego freshman outfielder Kalei Hanawahine (Kamehameha '09 of Honolulu) batted 2 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs in a 9-2 win over Portland Sunday. The Toreros beat Oregon State, 4-1, yesterday to win their eighth straight and improved to 31-16.
• Cal State Northridge junior outfielder Ridge Carpenter (Kalani '07 of Honolulu) batted 3 for 4 with two RBIs, one run scored and a stolen base in an 11-4 win over UC Santa Barbara Saturday.
• Southern Utah sophomore outfielder Mitchell Kauweloa (Kamehameha '08 of Kailua) batted 2 for 3 with two RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases in a 16-5 win over IPFW Saturday.
• Puget Sound (Wash.) senior Jarvis Nohara ('Iolani '06 of Honolulu) was named to the All-Northwest Conference First Team as a utility player. Nohara, who is listed as a pitcher, catcher and infielder, had a team-best 3.60 ERA with a 4-1 record and batted .312. Pacific (Ore.) senior Kaeo Lau Hee was named to the Second Team as a utility player. Lau Hee, who was predominantly a first baseman, led the Boxers with a .410 batting average. Puget Sound's Doug Cox (Kalāheo '06 of Kailua) and Pacific's Brandon Kon (Castle '06 of Kāne'ohe) and Mike Nagamine (Mid-Pacific '08 of 'Aiea) got honorable mention.
• New Mexico State freshman outfielder Tehani Ka'aihue (Kapolei '09) hit a two-run homer and junior first baseman Hoku Nohara (Kamehameha '07 of Waimānalo) batted 2 for 3 with a double and RBI in an 8-7 win over San Jose State Saturday. Ka'aihue went 2 for 3 with a double in a 3-2 loss Friday. NMSU (27-26, 7-14 WAC) is the host of this week's WAC Championship Tournament and plays Boise State today in a first-round game.
• East Carolina senior second baseman Charina Sumner (Kamehameha '06 of Kailua) batted 2 for 4 with a run scored and senior left fielder Marina Gusman-Brown (Pearl City '06 of 'Ewa Beach) hit her 11th homer of the season in a 3-0 win over Memphis Saturday. Gusman-Brown homered again in game two of the doubleheader, which ECU won 8-0. She hit a first-inning, RBI single to score Sumner in Sunday's 1-0 win.
• Mississippi State sophomore outfielder Ka'ili Smith (Kapolei '08) batted 3 for 9 in a three-game series against Alabama last weekend. Smith finished the season with a .329 batting average, 10 homers, 50 RBIs and 38 runs scored for the Bulldogs (26-29, 7-20 SEC).
• Joslyn Eugenio (Sacred Hearts '09 of Kapolei) of St. Martin's (Wash.) was named Freshman of the Year for the Great Northwest Conference. She was third in the conference with a .392 batting average and led the GNAC with 20 doubles. She was also 8-13 with a 3.65 ERA in the pitching circle and was named to the league's first team as a designated player.
• Metro State (Colo.) senior outfielder Kellie Nishikida (Pearl City '04) helped the Roadrunners win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship over the weekend. Nishikida went 4 for 5 with a triple, four RBIs, three runs scored and a walk in a 19-6 win over Mesa State Saturday. Metro State (46-4) lost to Mesa State (23-20) in Friday's second round, but came back to beat the Mavericks twice Saturday to win the league title. The two teams meet in the opening game of the four-team NCAA Central Regional Friday in Colorado Springs.