The defending champions Lady Lunas opened up their MIL season with a tough 14-10 win over Kamehameha Schools Maui at the Kihei Aquatic Center.
The Lunas had won 5 straight MIL titles and overall 50 consecutive matches – third in MIL history, and second actively only to the Lady Lunas’ basketball team’s current streak of 73 straight (Kamehameha Maui’s girls volleyball team has the second longest streak historically). However, the offseason saw major changes to the program. Gone from the team is long-time coach Will Hutchison, who moved on to the mainland to coach 14U club water polo in San Diego. Also gone were NINE seniors who contributed major minutes and experience in racking up wins the previous four years, including two-time MIL Player of the Year and Lunas’ career scoring leader Gina Bella Mataafa, now playing for Notre Dame College in Ohio; as well as Kamaehu Alboro, Kirsten Fuller, Ciara Allen, Malia Moore, Jessye Acker, Dezirea Acker, Taylor Pante and Dalena Duong.
Despite the success of past seasons, this year was looking to be a rebuilding one.
New coach Bradley Mason now leads a team of young and relatively inexperienced players into the MIL season looking to defend their title and consecutive win streak. Leading the way are senior co-captains Bela Pinto and Kanoelani Dodd, and fellow seniors Samantha Feyen, Ashley Probst, Leilani Miranda and newbie Amanda Arakawa. The talented junior class is led by Bridget Joy, Hanalore Rolfing, Mahea Kaaihue-Falahee and Courtney Galarita. Sophomore returnees are also blessed with great potential in Sierra Lerback, who looks to fill the void as goalie left behind by Mataafa and Allen; and tough-nosed players Kim Yap and Cherelle Freitas. Maile Altier and Siera Olvera look to make the transition from outstanding soccer players to water polo. Finally, the freshmen class includes Addi Johnson, Sophia Fredy, Kylie Keale-Smith and Kelly Gallagher.
The Lady Lunas found themselves down early against the Warriors. The officials seem to be calling it a lot tighter this year and many calls were going against the Lunas, who are known to play a physical brand of water polo. Several warnings were also issued against Coach Mason and the bench, and even an overzealous (apparently) Warrior fan. It seems that a certain referee was on a power trip. Then again, I admit I am not familiar with the rules of water polo nor am I privy to preseason meetings with MIL water polo officials and coaches who may have indicated a policy going into the season of cleaning up play or calling more fouls for aggressive play. Whatever the reason, as a casual fan new to the sport, I found the officiating distracting and annoying.
|Coach Bradley Mason|
|Coach Brad implores the team to play some defense|
Fortunately, the Lunas pulled out their 51st consecutive victory thanks in part to Bridget Joy, who looks to be the primary offensive weapon this season.
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