Sophomore Goalkeeper Leading Mules Water Polo

With one of the youngest lineups in the OIA, the Leilehua girls water polo team looked a year away from being in the mix back in preseason.

Thanks to players like sophomore goalkeeper Chyel Palmer, the Mules’ so-called rebuilding year never materialized.

Heading into last weekend’s OIA tournament, Leilehua was 6-4 and projected to earn one of the league’s berths for this week’s girls water polo championships at University of Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.

Palmer burst on to the scene like a meteor last spring when her quick development allowed Leilehua coach Nate Higa to put her into the starting lineup in her first year playing the sport. This allowed then-senior team leader Talea Alailima to move from in goal to the field. (Palmer also had cracked the starting lineup as a freshman on the Mules’ basketball team.)

“(Playing basketball) definitely helped,” said Palmer. “Since it was my first year playing water polo, I didn’t start getting the hang of it until the middle of last season (as a freshman). I knew how to swim, and I actually have long arms. I got the hang of it, and we needed Talea there (in the field).”

Being in goal also means being at the center of action, but Palmer likes the role.

“I’m a leader. I like to lead people and, as a goalkeeper, I get to talk to the other girls a lot and tell them where to go. I’m a team player from (playing) basketball.”

In addition to taking on water polo, there have been other changes in Palmer’s life, most notably, giving birth to a baby boy (Amariel) this year.

“I’d say my son has had the biggest impact on me,” she said. “I had a baby at a young age, but I’ve still been able to do things. You just have to work harder to reach your goals. I’ m thankful for all the support I receive.”

Palmer recently took some time away from the practice floor to visit with Central Oahu Voice.

What is your earliest sports-related memory? I actually used to like playing volleyball a lot. My grandfather (the late Marvin Shafer) was into basketball, and he always took me to college basketball games and stuff when I was younger. When I was in fifth grade, he passed away and I began playing basketball. People told me I had a natural talent. I’ve come a long way to making the varsity and starting as a freshman.

What area of your game did you focus on during the off-season? I pretty much worked on my eggbeater (kick), which is like treading water (to enable a swimmer to remain vertical). That (maneuver) was lacking my freshman year. I feel like I’ve gotten much better at it since my freshman year.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned through athletics? To not give up. In a game when stuff is going on, you can’t get down on yourself because that can affect the whole team. You have to stay posi- tive.

Who is Leilehua’s best practice player — the girl who puts out the best effort every day? I’d day there are two — Kilia Chillingworth and Shazary Sinclair. They’re both always working hard.

What Internet site do you frequent the most? Twitter. I go on there a lot to look at what’s going on with my friends. I also go on Instagram and post a lot of photos.

What is your least favorite household chore? Probably doing the dishes. I don’t really like them.

What movie could you watch over and over? I like scary movies. I can watch those over and over.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists? Jhene Aiko (Efuru Chilombo), Drake and Sam Smith.

How do you like to spend your free time? Usually I have basketball practice in my free time, but when I’ m free I like going out with my friends to the movies.

You’re stuck on Kaho‘olawe. You can have an endless supply of one food. What would it be? Probably hamburger steak.

What celebrity would you most like to meet? (Singer) Jhene Aiko (Efuru Chilombo).