POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 30, 2011
Nicole Hagi has come a long way from practicing in the wave pool at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park.
Five-thousand miles to be exact.
The former Kapolei student has graduated from practicing in wave pools to the Siena Swim Center in Loudonville, N.Y.
A senior on the Siena College water polo team, Hagi is tied for third on the squad with 19 goals despite missing the first five games of the season.
Before she could grab a ball and start shooting away this season, Hagi had to finish her three-year swimming career at Siena, placing seventh in the 1,650-meter freestyle at the conference championships in February.
She joined the water polo team in time for the longest road trip she's taken in college, a trip to Michigan followed by a cross-country flight to California for five games.
"It was really nice to play outside and finally get a nice tan," Hagi said. "It was warm, which was a nice change, and my parents flew out to see me play."
The trip gave the Saints a good taste of what water polo is like on the West Coast, where the quality of play is much higher.
Still, as the East Coast develops new teams and new programs, Hagi says the quality of play there has improved since her freshman year.
"Definitely isn't as good as in California, but I can tell it's getting better and better every year," Hagi said.
So are the Saints, who qualified for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in school history in Hagi's freshman year. They made it back again her junior season and are trying for a third trip to the postseason this year.
Siena is 7-10 overall and begins league play on April 9 against Iona and Villanova.
"We're OK, we're not like the best or anything, but we've gotten better," Hagi said.
Hagi will major in biology with a minor in English and plans on coming home after graduating at the end of spring.
Before she finishes, however, there's one thing she wants to do that she hasn't done in three and a half years, which is very surprising.
"I need to go (to the city) before I graduate," Hagi said. "I've been there for games, but have only driven through the city."
Once she gets to New York City, what's the first thing she wants to do?
"I hear there's a Genki Sushi," she said. "I'd have to go there first."