LAHAINA - The Lahainaluna High School water polo team won a ticket to the 2013 Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Tournament this week in Honolulu by virtue of their 7-3 record and second place finish in the Maui Interscholastic League this season.
The Lady Lunas are looking for bigger and better rankings next year.
"It's important to get to Oahu (for the state tournament) for the seniors, and we're happy to attain that goal," said second-year coach Bradley Mason last week from his classroom at Sacred Hearts School, where he is a teacher.
The water polo team finished the year 7-3. PHOTO BY ART FILLAZAR.
"And I'm pleased with the growth and maturity of our seniors - especially our captains Hanalore Rolfing and Bridget Joy - as they all meant a lot to the team.
"We put emphasis on improving our swimming and passing this year. A number of the girls crossed over to the swim team, and that helped us improve," he continued.
"We are extremely grateful to Coach Tom Popdan for being a mentor for us. We try to be a finesse team and play smart water polo, and we saw great improvement in the team over the course of the regular season and MIL tournament."
Coach Mason, who is assisted by Jen Valenzuela and Chris Calvert, added that the Lady Lunas were blessed with several talented shooters led by freshmen sensation Lalelei Mata'afa.
"She (Mata'afa) is the best shooter in the league," said Mason, adding that the best goalies in the MIL were stunned when her shots flew past them.
"She learned a lot from her sister, Gina Bela," a former Lady Luna all-star water polo player.
Along with co-captains Rolfing and Joy, senior players on the roster were Naomi Tsuda and Tekau Taaumu. They were joined by juniors Courtney Galarita, Kim Yap, Sierra Lerback, Kylie Keale-Smith and Amanda Mayer; sophomores Addi Johnson, Kaile Stockham and Noemi Granados; and freshmen Mata'afa and Haleigh Berko.
"We've had several players start to take more interest in their swimming ability, and this will certainly help us continue Lahainaluna excellence in water polo," explained Mason.
"We are definitely building momentum to get all the way back to the top." Lahainaluna captured eight straight MIL titles before the streak was stopped two years ago.
"The transition of new coaches and new players is going well, and we are very excited about this," Mason said.
"These girls have been an incredible group to work with - just great to be around, and I'm honored to be their coach. They understand that our mission is to develop life skills such as work ethic, discipline, punctuality and commitment through athletics.
"I send my gratitude to Coach Jen for helping me with the details up at the school, to Coach Chris for doing all the behind the scenes organizational stuff for the team, and to Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch for his direction throughout the season. I am really pleased with the way the team dealt with some adversity during the season to come back strong down the stretch. They really pulled together to beat Kamehameha three times to get the state bid."