KEAAU – Ocean Akau had next, only to be left with nothing. Nothing, thanks to Akau’s persistence, turned out to be only temporary.
Upperclassmen status on Kamehameha’s water polo team usually comes with an array of perks: BIIF championships, full stays at the HHSAA tournament on Oahu and, for a lucky someone, a Player of the Year award.
Dan Lyons, the director of the Warriors’ dynasty, first talked of Akau’s award-worthy potential when she was an underclassmen. She added leadership skills to her tool bag last season, and Lyons thought she was primed for big things ahead of a junior campaign that lasted all of two matches because of the onset of the pandemic.
“We were kind of all devastated about losing our season last year,” Akau said poolside Thursday after practice. “We trained really hard for it.
“We kind of have a season this year, it’s just not the same. We’re going to try make due with what we have and play hard.”
She and fellow seniors Noe’ula Lindsey, Osiana Pacheco and Ryenne Cordeiro plan to “go out with a bang,” Akau said, when they play rival Hawaii Prep in an abbreviated BIIF schedule that begins Saturday in Waimea.
Kamehameha has been practicing for three weeks under interim coach Chris Ho. The majority of the team competed in swimming in the winter season, Ho said, and he compared the process of reacclimating his 10 players to the finer points of water polo after a year away from the sport to “practicing the proverbial bike riding all over again.”
“Back to basics a little but, not too much,” Ho said. “Definitely having to rehone skills. Now they are itching to get back and play some games.
“It’s definitely a huge mahalo for all of the parents for allowing the girls to come out.”
Private schools Kamehameha and HPA have been common opponents this year during the two makeshift seasons – soccer, baseball, softball, boys volleyball, girls and boys basketball – but water polo, more than any other sport, is where the two stand out together as the creme de la creme of the league
The Warriors have won nine of the past 10 BIIF titles, with Ka Makani grabbing one in 2017 after a near miss a season earlier.
“I know we’re always up and up with HPA,” Akau said.
Ho calls himself the ‘fill in’ coach for Lyons,who is recovering after undergoing heart surgery at Stanford Medical Center.
“For me, we’re playing for Dan,” Ho said. “I just want to see the girls get back to playing the game they love.”
Said Akau: “We definitely have (Lyons) in mind. We’re sad he’s not here, but we’re glad he’s taken care of and getting better.”
The Warriors’ best players usually generate college opportunities for themselves, but previous ones have had full junior and seniors with which to showcase their abilities.
Akau didn’t have that advantage, but she didn’t let it stop her, landing academic scholarships and a spot on the water polo team at Augustana College (Illinois), which is starting up its program in NCAA Division III.
“I had film from my sophomore year and from junior a little bit,” she said. “I put together a couple of recruiting videos, sent them to coaches and heard back from a bunch. Augustana really stood out to me because of the balance of athletics and academics.”
Akau always has been resourceful.
A couple of years ago, the Tribune-Herald – regrettably – referred to her as “Summer” Akau in a water polo story.
Then a sophomore, Akau simply went with it, telling her friends, “Guys, look, my name is Summer,” she said Thursday.
“Some of my friends still call me Summer,” Akau said.
Calling her a persistent Kamehameha senior works as well.