Lahainaluna stays unbeaten
KIHEI – The Baldwin and Lahainaluna high school girls water polo teams have dominated the sport in the Maui Interscholastic League since its inception in 2004.
The Lunas had a 52-match league winning streak snapped by the Bears in 2012 and haven’t beaten them since.
Until Tuesday, that is.
Lahainaluna (4-0) rallied from two five-goal deficits to record a dramatic 15-13 win over two-time defending MIL champion Baldwin (3-1) at the Kihei Aquatic Center.
“Oh, it’s really big because we were looking forward to beating them,” said Lunas sophomore Lalelei Mataafa, who had a team-high five goals. “We just came so close, but couldn’t get them at the end, but now that we got this victory, it gives us momentum to come out swinging this year.”
Baldwin turned a 6-4 halftime lead into a 9-4 advantage on three goals in the first 89 seconds of the third quarter, all by Alea Weber, who finished with a match-high seven goals.
A goal by Baldwin’s Leyla Anderson made it 10-5 with 4 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
Mataafa is the younger sister of Gina-Bella Mataafa, a former MIL Player of the Year who is now playing the sport at Notre Dame College, an NCAA Division II school.
“She just always wants me to do my best, play hard and be the best that I can,” Lalelei Mataafa said. “She is a really good coach to me, I look up to her. It’s really great and she gives me really good advice, like ‘beat Baldwin.’ “
Mataafa’s laser-like skip shot made it 10-6 with 4:38 left in the third, Courtney Galarita cut the deficit to 10-7 on a power-play goal, Haleigh Berko scored and Julia Bianco capped a four-goal run for the Lunas with a breakaway tally with 2:32 left in the third.
Baldwin boosted the lead to 11-9 on a long shot by Sheena Obregon. Galarita scored on a lob shot for Lahainaluna before Weber answered to make it 12-10 Baldwin with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
Bianco scored with 59 seconds left in the quarter and Mataafa’s long skip shot tied it at 12-12 going to the fourth.
The final seven-minute frame was a defensive struggle until Mataafa scored off an assist from Maile Altier to give Lahainaluna its first lead at 13-12 with 4:53 to play.
Weber scored the Bears’ final goal to tie the match for the third time with 4:33 to play, but the Lunas took the lead for good on an Altier goal with 4:11 to go.
Lahainaluna’s Cherelle Freitas scored the final goal with 31 seconds remaining.
“We kept our composure, we stuck with our game plan, we executed in the end, we were able to draw a lot of ejections,” Lunas coach Bradley Mason said. “We capitalized on those ejections and that’s the name of the game in water polo.”
Mason was an assistant coach to Will Hutchison as Lahainaluna was putting together a seven-year unbeaten string in the MIL. That has changed in the last couple seasons.
“It has been three years since we beat Baldwin, so this is a big win for us,” Mason said. “It is still early in the season, but we’re really excited about this one. It’s good to be back, beating the Bears.”
Baldwin coach Chris Cal-vert tipped his cap to the Lunas.
“They made an amazing comeback,” he said. “We will play them once more in league and potentially in the league tournament. Every game is a big game. We were in the driver’s seat and they took it back.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Goals-Baldwin: Alea Weber 7, Talia Brainard 2, Tina Medeiros 1, Kahaila Boneza 1, Sheena Obregon 1, Leyla Anderson 1; Lahainaluna: Lalelei Mataafa 5, Haleigh Berko 2, Maile Altier 2, Courtney Galarita 2, Julia Bianco 2, Cherelle Freitas 1, Alicia Wintermeyer 1.