Bears cruise to championship

Espeleta, Baldwin shut out Lahainaluna to win tournament final 12-0

Audrey Reiss of Baldwin High School lines up a shot as Lahainaluna’s Lara Claydon defends during the third quarter of the Bears’ 12-0 victory over the Lunas in the MIL tournament championship match Saturday at Kihei Aquatic Center. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KIHEI — The Baldwin High School girls water polo team capped an impressive run to its second consecutive Maui Interscholastic League title with a 12-0 win over Lahainaluna on Saturday.

The Bears finished 12-0 in MIL play and 22-2 overall with their victory in the league tournament championship game at Kihei Aquatic Center.

The Baldwin season includes wins over Oahu Interscholastic Association powers Kahuku and Roosevelt. The only losses came to Kamehameha Kapalama and Punahou, the state finalists in seven of the last 10 years, including the last three.

In the MIL finale, the Bears were dominant in every aspect of the game, including the rare shutout posted by senior goalie Kiara Espeleta, who will play collegiately at Concordia in Irvine, Calif., next season.

“We have the ability to press really hard on defense because I think we have the best goalie out there,” Baldwin coach Shawn Donohue said. “I have yet to see anyone really score on her. Only Punahou was the only team to really challenge her this year.

Baldwin goalie Kiara Espeleta stops a third-quarter shot on the way to posting a shutout Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“She is a force on defense, so that allows us to be more aggressive on defense, which allows to play that press and steal and counter-attack game. We’re fast, we play good defense and we counter attack.”

Jacsen Donohue, the coach’s sophomore daughter, scored the first three goals of the match and finished with five. Recent University of Hawaii commit Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore added four goals, Hailey Knowles had two and Audrey Reiss had one.

“Everyone just stepped it up today, no matter if you were first string, second string, it didn’t matter,” said Buenrostro-Gallimore, the reigning MIL Player of the Year who won two state swimming titles in February in the same pool. “I think we have a lot of potential. Preseason we really showed up and won against teams we don’t usually win against, so I think we have a really good chance at states this year. Hopefully we can go as far as we’ve ever have, further than we’ve ever gone.

“For Baldwin water polo it would probably mean the world.”

Espeleta drew praise from her coach and senior classmate.

Baldwin’s Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore looks to shoot in the third quarter Saturday as Lahainaluna’s Nikki Zamani defends. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Kiara’s amazing, she’s really trained hard, she’s really vocal now,” Buenrostro-Gallimore said. “There’s a lot of trust. A lot of it is trusting each other. … Having her as the backbone just really helps everyone step it up.”

Espeleta said it is easy to play with the teammates she has in front of her.

“It’s really good, you can always count on her to put shots away,” Espeleta said of Buenrostro-Gallimore. “She really brings the leadership to the team. She just helps us figure out what to do and how we’re going to keep up, doing what we do.”

Lahainaluna coach Bradley Mason was impressed. His team nailed down a sixth straight state berth with a 10-6 win over Seabury Hall in Saturday’s semifinals. Baldwin advanced to the tournament championship match with a 16-2 win over King Kekaulike.

“They’re playing good water polo, there’s no doubt about that,” Mason said of the Bears. “We’re very honored to be in the state tournament again, so we’re very happy about that. We played really well in the first game. I think we just had trouble kind of running it back and trying to double down and do two in a row. We battled until the end. We just had a little trouble getting our offense going.”

The Bears’ Kayla Newman takes aim on a fourth-quarter shot as the Lunas’ Kyra Franz closes in. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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MIL WATER POLO TOURNAMENT

At Kihei Aquatic Center

Saturday’s Results

CHAMPIONSHIP

Baldwin 12, Lahainaluna 0

Baldwin 2 6 2 2–12

Lahainaluna 0 0 0 0– 0

Goal scorers–Baldwin: Jacsen Donohue 5, Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore 4, Hailey Knowles 2, Audrey Reiss 1.

THIRD PLACE

King Kekaulike 4, Seabury Hall 1

King Kekaulike 1 0 3 0–4

Seabury Hall 0 0 0 1–1

Goal scorers–King Kekaulike: Makanahele Emmsley 3, Kualoa Emmsley 1. Seabury Hall: Skylar Lickle 1.

SEMIFINALS

Baldwin 16, King Kekaulike 2

Baldwin 5 3 5 3–16

King Kekaulike 0 1 1 0– 2

Goal scorers–Baldwin: Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore 7, Jacsen Donohue 6, Naomi Takakura 1, Audrey Reiss 1, Taryn Sato 1. King Kekaulike: Montana Disegna 1, Taitum Jones 1.

Lahainaluna 10, Seabury Hall 6

Lahainaluna 3 2 5 0–10

Seabury Hall 3 0 0 3– 6

Goal scorers–Lahainaluna: Dakota Delos-Reyes 5, Lara Claydon 2, Nikki Zamani 1, Hailey Bogar 1, Ryli Cherry 1. Seabury Hall: Skylar Lickle 3, Sydney Walker 1, Aryana Johnson 1, Eden Lingenfelder 1.

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