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Prep Football Preview Special
ScoringLive staffMay 15, 2023, 10:20pm
For the first time since 2007, there's a new state champion in the sport of girls water polo.
Kamehameha dominated from start to finish in a 6-1 win over Punahou in the title game of the HHSAA Girls Water Polo championships, held at the Warriors' Kalaniopuu Aquatic Center.
"Oh, my, gosh, I can't even find the words. It's just so crazy. That's all I can say," said senior goalkeeper Kahala Neumann. "I have grown up with this team since seventh grade. These girls are my sisters. It feels so amazing to finally see all of our hard work pay off."
The win marked the first for the Warriors since 2006 and also marked the first time the Buffanlu were not state champs since 2007, a streak of 13 consecutive snapped.
As it has been all year, the Warriors relied on its defense to set the tone, keeping the Buffanblu out of rhythm offensively, and that pressure, combined with the stellar play in goal by Neumann, who was also named the tourney's Most Outstanding Player, led to a near shutout and the lowest goal output of the season by Punahou.
"That is our game, we work so hard collectively as a team on defense," said Leinaala. "Today our defense was really on point and we've been pushing drills for the last couple of weeks so our hips were up, we were trying to minimize as many kick outs as we could. But yeah, our defense is why we won."
Offensively, Kamehameha cashed in on opportunties late in the first and second periods, as freshman Laikuakamahina Wong found the goal twice thanks cross the pool passes, one from sister Leinaala and the other from Charlotte Nakagawa.
"She's my younger sister so I couldn't be more proud," said Leinaala of her sister's play. "And for her to perform and as amazing as she did in her first state championship, I just love her so much. She's contributed so much and been a consistent player."
That two-goal cushion only furthered the confidence level for the Warriors, who benefitted not only from key saves in the second half by Neumann, but also no less than four shots on goal by the Buffanblu that either sailed long or caromed off the top bar or a post.
And the Buffanblu's struggles offensively only seemed to bolster the Warriors even more, who used threat of the outside shot to create opportunities in middle, particularly for Ava Gurney, who cashed in three second half goals to put the game all but out of reach.
"We always looking to open things up for our centers," said Leinaala Wong. "And Ava played amazing this game, and there were a few times it wasn't planned. We sort of have this unspoken thing where we'll just sort of know where we need to be and end up getting a shot."
Punahou scored early in the third period when Synnove Robinson recieved a ball at nearly point-blank range and easily tucked the ball past the leaping keeper, but the Warriors capitalized on a power play opportunity minutes later to push the lead back to five.
The fourth quarter saw Punahou try to press offensively but could never find any kind of real mometum, and Kamehameha ran off much of the clock while on offense to end it.
"The amount of times that Punahou has done that to us, it's just so surreal," said Neumann oif the win. "It just feels even better than winning ILH champs. This is the big one, and we finished and I'm just so proud of the team."
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