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Lahainaluna High School water polo team peaking at the right time

By Staff | Apr 18, 2019

The team includes (from left): front — Nalani Sampson, Lele Oliveira, Mei Lei Wegner, Brooke Whitehead, Hailey Bogar, Marley Calapini and Shaden Flores; back row — Mei Mei Bernasek, Ryli Cherry, Maile Cacal, Tepua Ho, Dakota Delos Reyes, Becca Segura, Puliki Rogers and Makena Cowan.

LAHAINA – It should come as no surprise that the construction of the state-of-the-art Lahaina Aquatic Center some 30 years ago and the arrival of swimming coach Tom Popdan coincided with the ascension of the Lahainaluna High School water polo program soon thereafter.

“No doubt about it,” said Lady Luna coach Bradley Mason. “Swimming is key in water polo, and the club and high school programs led by Tom Popdan and his staff has had a major impact on the success of our water polo program. The opportunity to practice at this facility, that is kept in top shape by the lifeguards here, has also been key to our success.”

Coach Mason, a high school All-American water polo selection and a member of his Illinois high school state championship team, is assisted by former Lady Luna standout Courtney Galarita in leading the program.

Lahainaluna finished the regular season in third place with a 6-4 record and will enter the Maui Interscholastic League playoffs at Kihei Aquatic Center this week as the third seed.

The ever-optimistic Mason pointed to the team’s ability to communicate and support their teammates as the important factor in their success this season.

“We had a rough start, but with our team chemistry and the passion for the sport, we’ve turned it around going into the tournament, and we’re peaking at the right time. This team has great personalities and they are very enthusiastic about water polo. It’s really been fun to be a part of this program,” he said.

“We’re a diverse group with swimmers, canoe paddlers and soccer athletes filling the roster, and seven experienced players and eight new arrivals on the team. They still bonded well as a unit and worked well together. We had good leadership from our senior group.

Leading the way for the Lady Lunas are senior team captains Brooke Whitehead and Dakota Delos Reyes, along with classmates Mei Lei Wegner and Marley Calapini, and junior returnees Hailey Bogar, Ryli Cherry, Makena Cowan, Lele Oliveira and Nalani Sampson.

Rounding out the Lahainaluna roster are sophomores Shaden Flores and Becca Segura, and first-year players Maile Cacal, Puliki Rogers, Tepua Ho, and Mei Mei Bernasek.

At poolside at the LAC, Coach Mason expressed his gratitude to all of the supporters of the team.

“To our A.D. Scott Soldwisch, Trainers Jon Conrad and Becca Cohen, to the lifeguard staff here led by Phil Link, Carl Lisk and Jason Dela Cruz for keeping this facility – the best in the state – in top shape, and for being so welcoming to the team in providing such a great place to practice and train. And also to the parents and community for supporting the team in such a positive and encouraging way,” he concluded.