KEAAU – Watch animated Hilo water polo coach Malia Tallett work for a few seconds Saturday, and it was easy to tell her focus: defense. Defense. DEFENSE!
The Vikings heard her, and on this day better than ever.
“I expect a lot out of my kids when we come to play,” Tallet said. “I expect them to play the way I taught them.”
If Tallet comes off as a drill sergeant at times as she shouts instructions, she says it’s because she wants her players to know the drill – in life.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” Tallett said at Naeole Pool after a 6-1 victory against Keaau, “but I’m hard on them, and I know it doesn’t always show. People don’t understand where they came from. Some didn’t know how to swim when they came out this year.
“The fact that they’re in there playing, yeah I’m hard on them, but it’s because I expect them to play better than they do in practice.”
The match between the Vikings (2-3) and Cougars (0-7) wasn’t played for the top spot in the BIIF standings. The teams combined for just one win entering the match.
But in a sense, the contest perfectly illustrated why high school sports are played in the the first place.
For the first time in Tallet’s six-plus years on the job, Hilo swept its two matches during a meet, but she said, “I don’t focus on the Ws.”
“I focus on the game. I want these girls to think for themselves. I want them to learn to play a team sport and be responsible for what you choose to do.
“I hope that by asking them to think and expecting them to be intelligent, I hope that is going to be (with them) for their life.”
Hilo and Keaau each have 11 players of varying degrees of inexperience, but the Cougars are playing just their third year of water polo and “compared to everybody else, we’re babies,” coach Chris Ho said.
“Still learning to crawl,” he said.
Keaau has yet to win a match in two-plus seasons, and trailing just 1-0 midway through the first quarter, this might have been the Cougars’ closest contest yet.
“I would love to get a win, but honestly, I love that my girls, play, smile and have fun,” Ho said.
Shayla Pascual and Amy Patterson each scored twice for Hilo in a match in which each goaltender, Keaau’s Kyla Fabiani and the Vikings’ Sydney Patterson, sparkled.
Fabiani stopped a 5-meter penalty shot and was the busiest player in the pool for the first three quarters.
“She’s absolutely fantastic,” Ho said. “She pulled off some saves this season that would literally blow your mind.”
At times, the ball seemed to be drawn to the crossbar and goalposts like a magnet to metal.
Lexie Prudholm, who scored in the third quarter, was the only Cougar to get a shot past Sydney Patterson, who was filling in for Laurie McGrath.
Keaau holds it practices at Naeole Pool, and the fact that their is no pool in the community is a constant drawback, Ho said.
“We’re the only one not to have one,” he said.
But at least he’s got a nice base to build around.
“(The experience) actually as gone up,” he said “They’re a lot more determined and focused. The speed has gotten a lot faster. We are able to hold our own against teams that we never were able to before.
“Our defense is probably our strength for us because we have to practice it so much.”
Earlier, Pascual netted four goals and Keli Hanley recorded a hat trick in an 11-7 win against Konawaena (2-3), which fell into a fifth-place tie with the Vikings. Nikki Demers scored four goals for the Wildcats.
In the closest match of the day, Kawena Haserot scored the go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter as Kealakehe beat Waiakea 11-9.
Hailey Yessis scored three consecutive goals spanning the third and fourth quarters for the Waveriders (3-2) to tie the game 9-9 and Meiling Kam led the way with four scores.
Korrie Tengan tallied four goals for the Warriors (3-3) and Sydney Hashiro had three.
Also, Kamehameha (6-0) remained unbeaten with two easy victories, 18-3 against Konawaena and 21-3 against Waiakea.
Against Waiakea, Emma Kanoa scores six times, Aubrey Carter added five goals and Cassidy Farias collected four.
Against the Wildcats, Kamehameha received balanced scoring, with Mahina Kirsch recording a hat trick and Osiana Pacheco, Cherish Keliihoomalu and Ryenn Cordeiro tacking on two goals apiece.