KIHEI - Makamae Palos remembers the last time Kamehameha Schools Maui went to the state water polo tournament.
Palos, one of four seniors on this year's team, was a freshman in 2009 when the Warriors earned a berth for the second time in a row - and second time ever. The team's third state trip will finish Palos' career.
Kamehameha nailed down the Maui Interscholastic League's final state spot with an 8-4 win over Lahainaluna in a second-place playoff Saturday at Kihei Aquatic Center.
Janessa Cordeiro of Kamehameha Maui shoots during the Warriors’ 8-4 win over Lahainaluna in Saturday’s Maui Interscholastic League second-place playoff at Kihei Aquatic Center.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Palos, the only player from that 2009 squad still with the Warriors, scored only one goal Saturday, but "she is our defensive stopper," coach Leo Delatori said.
The Warriors (6-5) were playing their third match in four days, wrapped around the school's song contest Friday night, and beat the Lunas for the third time in four meetings this season and second time in four days.
Lahainaluna, the six-time defending MIL champion and a three-time state final four team, will miss the state tournament for the first time in seven years.
"It feels good to finally beat them, they are so good," Palos said of the Lunas, whose 52-match MIL winning streak was snapped earlier this season by league-champion Baldwin. "I feel like ever since I started water polo Lahainaluna was the team to beat, they have been undefeated since water polo started. It was the greatest feeling in the world to be able to share in my team and now we get to go to states."
After a scoreless first quarter, Kamehameha exploded in the second - Anuhea Kaiaokamalie scored two of her game-high four goals in the period - and led 5-1 at halftime.
Bridgette Joy and Maile Altier scored in the first three minutes of the second half for the Lunas (5-5).
Janessa Cordero answered for the Warriors, however, and goalkeeper Leimana Hassell made one of her nine saves on a penalty shot with 41 seconds left in the third, helping Kamehameha end the period with a 6-3 advantage.
Kaiaokamalie scored on a backhand shot with 4:42 to play and Hassell snuffed another penalty shot with just under four minutes left. Samantha Feyen brought the Lunas within three for the last time with a goal with 3:22 to go, but Kaiaokamalie scored her final goal on a rebound with 29 seconds left.
"I remember cheering on Lahainaluna three years ago at state," Palos said. "At states, we are one team. The competition over there, it is like nothing we have ever experienced here."
Kim Yap scored the first goal for the Lunas, while Sierra Leirback was stellar in goal with 10 saves, many of them from point-blank range.
"It is satisfying to get past that team," Delatori said of Lahainaluna. "This is the first time our program has ever been able to top the Lunas.
They are traditionally, every year they seem to be in the semifinals of the state tournament, so to be able to beat a team like this is really good for our program."
Riley Shiraishi and Elizabeth Guth scored the Warriors' other goals.
The Lunas had several new players, and a first-year coach, Bradley Mason. Their winning streak stands as the MIL's third-longest in any sport.
"It's tough not to get back to the state tournament, we feel we belong there, we thought we should have been," Mason said. "We had a game plan, but we didn't quite execute it as well as we could have."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Goals-Kamehameha Maui, Anuhea Kaiaokamalie 4, Riley Shiraishi, Elizabeth Guth, Makamae Palos, Janessa Cordero; Lahainaluna, Kim Yap, Samantha Feyen, Bridgette Joy, Maile Altier.