Mililani Looks To Take Top Spot In High School Water Polo
There are 17 OIA teams currently competing in water polo, and 16 of them entered the 2014 season with the same goal: to beat Kahuku.
That goal was still in sight for Mililani – arguably the team with the best opportunity to unseat the Red Raiders – over the weekend at the league’s post-season tournament. The Trojans’ only loss had been to Kahuku, after all.
“We really want to take our shot at them and dethrone them,” head coach Gregg Wong said hours before his team took to the pool for their tournament opener against Leilehua late last week.
Mililani’s other goal last weekend was to ensure a spot in this week’s girls state championships on Hawaii Island. The team has qualified for states every year since 2008 and is hoping to send off what has been one of the its most accomplished senior classes the right way.
Wong hopes his team can stay the course, as Saturday night’s senior prom takes place only hours after the state title game. “There is a bit of anxiety as to how we’ll figure this all out, but I believe that water polo is at the forefront (of their thoughts),” said Wong. “They are excited to go and play, and the expectations they’ve set for themselves have added to that. It is a unique scheduling conflict. Twelve of our girls will fly back after the tournament and rush to their prom.”
Mililani was consolation runner-up at last year’s state tournament after finishing fourth at the OIA tournament a week earlier. With a stellar senior class returning for this year, Wong emphasized that they became students of the game even more this time around.
“You can have physically strong and physically fast athletes, but if they don’t understand the game, it will affect their performance. We have girls who can shoot, and we’re great at the center position, and that creates opportunities. But you have to be mentally engaged, and you have to make good decisions. It’s something we’ve focused on with our video study and in practice. We want to be able to execute consistently and at a high level. It’s starting to click for them. They’re excited to see how far they can go.”
While senior leadership has been big for the current team, Mililani’s depth also has played a large role.
“Half of our team are seniors, and that’s a big reason why we’ve done well,” Wong said. “Our subs also will be important (at states). We have 12 to 14 kids who will contribute to what we do. It’s been a team effort. We’ve preached throughout the season playing well on both ends – offensively and defensively – so that we can take that next step.”
Pairings for the state championships were to be revealed Sunday night.