It wasn’t a meteor strike, but rather a virus.
Considering its pedigree, what else was going to keep Kamehameha’s water polo team from reaching the playoffs other than a cataclysmic event?
Early on, the Warriors looked good, no surprise, and Hilo High appeared to be in for a competitive ride. For all intents and purposes, that’s a full stop on the BIIF water polo campaign, one of eight spring sports wiped away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons not only was looking forward to quality time with two daughters who were assistant coaches – Sydney and Kanoe – but also 19 of his “daughters.” Senior Abigail Andrade and junior Ocean Akau, just to name a few.
“Just spending time with the girls, the athletes, the daily grind of it, that’s the part that’s missed the most,” he said.
Perhaps no school lost as many golden moments with the lost spring than Kamehameha, which has a knack for excelling this time of year. The baseball and softball teams each were vying for their ninth consecutive BIIF titles, boys volleyball was trying to fashion a repeat and its sixth title since 2014, and senior Chenoa Frederick was looking to pad a track and field resume that is already the best turned in by a Big Island female.
Lyons was chasing a threepeat and 10th crown in 11 seasons, but it’s his four seniors (Brianne Souki, Madison Kobayashi, Chantilly Keliihoomalu and Andrade) who he feels sorry for the most.
“(Andrade’s) been in our program since her freshmen year, she has never played as much as she’d like to and had been really working hard to get a lot of playing time,” Lyons said. “She was going to see a lot of playing time and by the end of the season she was going to develop into one of the better players in the BIIF.
“It’s sad to see someone who puts that much work into it that, who doesn’t get the opportunity.”
Lyons said he called Andrade recently to apologize to her that hard work translated into a season that never was. What he heard on the other end of the conversation was an attitude that will always endure.
“She said it really hurts because I really wanted to have a great senior year, but God has a plan and it’s not always what I’m wanting,” Lyons said. “I was really impressed that she’s a young women, you she can see she’s going to be a really great young women and be able to work under adversity.”
Instead of practicing this week for the BIIF semifinals – it’s hard to imagine Kamehameha wouldn’t have qualified for the start of the postseason Thursday – Lyons said team would have a Zoom meeting to touch base and see how everyone is dealing with the shutdown.
Hilo High might have spent the past few weeks trying to earn a spot alongside Kamehameha in the final four. There are no shortage of mismatches in any high school sport, but the Vikings looked to reside in the competitive middle tier in the water polo pecking order. Hilo played two nail-biters, a 10-9 loss to Konawaena and a 14-13 victory against Waiakea.
Kamehameha was clearly on the top tier. The Warriors made their annual preseason trip to take on the Oahu heavyweights, and Lyons called it his program’s best one yet. Kamehameha beat Hawaii Prep 14-7 in their opener in a rematch of last season’s BIIF championship. The bulk of the team is set to return next season, including Akau, a front-runner for player the year in 2020.
“I think they love the game of water polo, they love being together and working out and training hard,” Lyons said. “I anticipate that they’re all going to come back, might have a bigger hunger and might realize that you’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities because you don’t really know happens tomorrow.”
Lyons know this all to well. His son-in-law recently died unexpectedly, and he shared the family experience of dealing with a tragedy with his extended water polo ohana. No matter how determined and prepared the plan is, one phone call can change everything in life.
For the Warriors, it took a once-in-a-lifetime virus to alter history.
“You think this is going to be a great season, you can’t wait, and all of sudden everyone has to take a step back and realize what’s truly important,” Lyons said. “I think they’re going to come back stronger for this.”
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories detailing what was lost through the cancellation of each of the eight BIIF spring sports.