Bulldogs Dig In Over Prom Weekend To Pave Way To States

Natalie Strong, captain Rachel Morgan Marlena Mlynarska, (back) captain Natasha Gourlay, coach Krislin-Hope Young

Senior Night with the champion Bulldogs: (front, from left) Natalie Strong, captain Rachel Morgan Marlena Mlynarska, (back) captain Natasha Gourlay, coach Krislin-Hope Young, Murielle Rodrigue and coach Jay Hohl. Photo from Krislin-Hope Young.

Le Jardin Academy girls water polo team wasn’t about to let preparations for the school’s Senior Prom impede its upward mobility. Indeed, after capturing the school’s first-ever women’s Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II crown, the Bulldogs increased their practice time in the pool over the last few weeks.

“We practiced at 6 a.m. on that Saturday before their prom, and they came in Sunday (noon to 1:30),” said head coach Krislin-Hope Young. “They’re so dedicated to come in on prom weekend. You can tell how much they want it. Our season has been a credit to our players.”

The Bulldogs were hoping to extend their season with a berth in this week’s water polo championships, pending the results of their ILH playoff games late last week. But regardless of their post-season fate, the program has reached a new plateau of success under Young, now in her second year.

“It’s been an exciting opportunity,” said Young, who played at Kamehameha in addition to having been an assistant coach at both Kapolei and the University of Hawaii. “(Athletic Director) Reid Olaso and the athletic department have been behind us since the day I came onboard.”

LJA went 9-2 for the season, with its only defeats coming from Punahou. The Bulldogs held an edge in the season series with the Buffanblu, however, winning three out of five matches. Young said the epic battles helped LJA evolve in its own right.

“If we were to break it down, our offense has been (our strength) – not that our defense hasn’t been outstanding. Having to play Punahou that many times, we constantly had to tweak our offense and learn more plays. I give our girls a lot of credit. If we hadn’t constantly had to come up with something new, they would have shut us down. That has kept us scoring.”

Senior leadership played no small role in LJA’s run over the past several weeks with Natasha Gourlay and Rachel Morgan as captains.

“Natasha has been outstanding – in and out of the water,” Young said. “She’s always positive, and she always motivates the team and goes out of her way to help. When the younger girls have a question, they go to our seniors, not us.

“Rachel has been another one with strong leadership. She gets the girls excited, and she’s been outstanding on defense. She’s one of the best defenders on the team.”

Offensively, junior Katie Dalgamouni and sophomore Kacey Kuchenbecker led the way, finishing the ILH season tied for the lead.

“She (Dalgamouni) is great at anticipating, and she has such finesse that she makes a big impact on our team,” Young said. “She plays the whole game.”

Marlena Mlynarska, Casey Doyle, Jamie Swoish, Georgia Havens, Emily Donkervoet, Natalie Strong, Erin Voss, Kelly Kuchen-becker, Leah Qiu and Murielle Rodrigue round out the Le Jardin Academy Bulldog team.

“We couldn’t have done it without everyone,” Young said. “It’s amazing what a small school can produce.”