Kapolei Water Polo Team Anticipates ‘States’ Next Month

History has a way of repeating itself, which is a comforting thought for Kapolei girls water polo head coach Dex Lee and his current team.

Since Kapolei’s program began in 2001, Lee and the Hurricanes have never missed a state tournament, earning one of the OIA berths in every year. With a 6-0 start to its season, Lee’s 2014 edition looks like a lock to make states next month.

A solid corps of seasoned returnees has the Hurricanes once again dreaming big. “The experience factor is huge from a coaching standpoint,” said Lee, whose team has outscored its opponents by a 10-2 count on average through six matches. “I don’t have to worry about them getting too excited and trying to do too much. They’ll come in and play their game.”

Kapolei was last season’s OIA tournament runner-up to five-time defending champion Kahuku and went on to finish fourth at the state water polo tournament for the second straight year (behind Iolani, Kahuku and champion Punahou).

Returnees include Brooke Bosque, Kayla Lanier, Leilani Herrera, Corilynn Higa and Tiala Wendt.

“They all played a lot last year, and they have a lot of tournament experience,” Lee said. “Brooke has a great shot, and she’s our best defender. Kayla had good leadership skills through JROTC at Kapolei, where she’s the highest (ranking) student commander. She has a quick release and a great shot. Leilani is a real good swimmer who finished third in the state in the 100m backstroke in February. She’s our strongest player in the water.”

Wendt is goalkeeper, meanwhile, and has figured big in Kapolei establishing itself as one of the state’s premier defensive teams.

“Tiala is a great goal-keeper who should be All-Conference this year,” Lee said. “She has great range – she can cover the whole cage – and when we need an offensive boost, we bring her in as a two-meter (forward). She’s instant offense.”

Higa recently broke her finger and will be sidelined two more weeks, according to Lee. “Getting her back will be huge for us – she’s a driver, who plays the outside. She’s a great outside shooter, and she’s really smart.”

Kapolei returns to action Saturday when it hosts Kalani at 10 a.m. at the Barbers Point pool. The game will mark the last of the team’s pool play matches. From there, Kapolei will move on to the OIA winners bracket to play four more games.

As he looks ahead to the season’s final month, increasing the team’s depth is a priority. “We have a pretty good team – we’re definitely in the top echelon. We’re looking forward to playing the Mililanis, Roosevelts and Kahukus in the OIA winners bracket. You don’t have the lopsided games like the ones we’ve been playing in lately. We need to get to where our younger players like Mailani (Wendt), Anaika (Slattery), Ilani (Ibarra) and Chloe Robello are more proficient.”

The OIA tournament will run from April 24 to 26 at Central Oahu Regional Park. This year’s state tournament is set for April 30-May 3 on Kamehameha Schools Hawaii island campus.