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Wahine hope to upend USC in water polo

After seven weeks on the road, the fifth-ranked University of Hawaii water polo team finally plays its home opener tonight against third-ranked USC.


MPSF match

» Who: USC at Hawaii

» When: 6 p.m. today

» Where: Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex

A year ago, the home opener was March 6. The year before it was March 11 and in 2008 even later.

In 2007, a year that still lives in Rainbow Wahine water polo infamy, the home opener was Feb. 16 against San Diego State. Coincidentally — and UH felt quite unfairly — the Aztecs ended up with the at-large NCAA bid the end of the season. That came a few days after Hawaii slammed SDSU 19-12 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship to sweep the teams’ series. UH was ranked higher and finished higher in the MPSF standings, and still stayed home.

The next year, UH coach Michel Roy padded his schedule with the same unranked opponents that had padded SDSU’s record, scheduling three in one day. In 2009, UH opened against four unranked opponents and won by a combined score of 62-16.

That season ended with Hawaii’s third NCAA Championship appearance.

The Wahine’s brutal season-opening road swings are here to stay.

"We’ve been on three road trips already," says Carmen Eggens, one of six UH seniors. "It’s hard, but we’re used to it. The seniors are really used to it. It’s always hard, but we get so excited for home games in front of our home crowd. We’re so anxious to play in front of our fans."

Seniors Leonie Van Der Molen — a third-team All-American — Eggens and Saara Majuri are 2-3-4 in scoring, after first-team All-American Monika Eggens. Goalies Serena Bredin and Sara Gralitzer are in their last year, as is Dagmar Genee, one of three Dutch players for UH. Genee ranks second to Van Der Molen in kick-outs drawn and is fourth in assists.

The Wahine (10-4) lost to USC, 9-7, in this season’s fourth match. They are 3-28 lifetime against the Trojans, but were 7-23 against second-ranked Cal and 2-27 against fourth-ranked UCLA before this season. Hawaii beat the Bruins in overtime three weeks ago and took out Cal two days later.

"This team has been playing so well together," Carmen Eggens said. "We all just want it so bad. We have this synergy in the water, we’re all on the same page and have the same goals.

"It helps having so many leaders in the water, and everyone talking."

The Wahine are 2-0 in the MPSF as they look to take down USC for the first time in five years. Monika Eggens ranks sixth in MPSF scoring, at almost two goals a match. Sister Carmen had hat tricks in each of the past two matches. USC’s Nadia Dan, Kristen Dronberger and Patricia Jancso are all among the MPSF’s top 20 in scoring.

Hawaii plays four more home matches in the next two weeks, returns to California for the fourth time this season, then celebrates its seniors with a home match against Arizona State on April 16. The MPSF Championships are in San Jose, April 29-May 1.

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