Fifth-ranked Hawaii has a shot at bidding aloha to six seniors and going where no Rainbow Wahine water polo team has gone before when it plays its final home match tomorrow against 11th-ranked Arizona State.
A win, and the Wahine take third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for the first time. They are tied for third with third-ranked USC and fourth-ranked UCLA and hold the tiebreaker if all three win their final matches.
Seniors Serena Bredin,Leonie Van Der Molen,Dagmar Genee,Carmen Eggens,Saara Majuri andSara Gralitzer will be honored after the match at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex. Each has played a major part in what UH coach Michel Roy calls a "huge step" for his program. They have all been together three years. Their absence next season, along with that of All-American Monika Eggens, who hopes to be playing in the Olympics for Canada, will leave Hawaii in need of massive renovation.
But this season might just be beginning. The Wahine beat UCLA in overtime, were 2 seconds from beating USC and fell to top-ranked and unbeaten Stanford by two goals last week. As Genee says, "It all depends on the MPSF tournament and NCAAs. That’s what really counts."
Carmen Eggens, coached by Roy in Canada for two years before coming to UH, feels the same way.
"I felt like we could beat them all," she says. "We know we have that in us. For the MPSFs and hopefully nationals we know we can beat those teams and know what we need to do. It’s frustrating to come so close and then we can’t stop them in the final seconds, but it also feels encouraging because we know we can do it. Everyone is happy even though we lost to Stanford and that was frustrating. We are all excited because we know we can do it.
"We see how well we can play together as a team. It’s so easy to play the game with this team."
WAHINE WATER POLO
>> Who: Arizona State (11-11, 0-6 MPSF) at Hawaii (16-7, 3-3)
It might look and feel easy, Roy says, but this group has reached this stage with hard work. Bredin has "been the heart and soul of our defense" in goal, he says. She is averaging nearly nine saves, was a terror against USC and even better at Stanford, stopping two shots inside 5 meters in the opening minutes. Gralitzer is her battle-tested backup, allowing fewer than five goals in her starts.
Canada’s Olympic team could include Bredin and both Eggens sisters next year. Roy calls Carmen one of the "best overall players" in the collegiate game, with exceptional talents defending, scoring and passing.
"She is also a great leader," he says. "If she believes, we’ll go further."
Van Der Molen, a third-team All-American, and Genee came here from the Netherlands. Next year they could be helping the Dutch try to defend their gold medal. They are world-class, Roy says, despite Van Der Molen’s shoulder injury last year. Her specialty might be drawing penalties while Genee’s gift is defense. Her most memorable moment might be a solo stop of three players on a fast break.
Majuri, also from Canada, is simply tireless. She played every moment of all six periods against UCLA and leads the team in assists and miles in the pool.
With those seniors in the middle of it all, it has come to this: A win tomorrow and Hawaii will have its third seed at the MPSF championship the end of the month at San Jose State. Then it will take at least one win and probably two to reach the Wahine’s fourth NCAA championship.
The coach knows it is all possible. All he asks of his senior-laden team is to believe in itself.
"It’s not physical, technical or tactical," Roy says. "Just pure self-confidence. If we can get that, and I believe we’re getting to the stage where they believe they can, then we could go all the way. We have a shot at it. We have the talent. We have 11 great players."
Eggens and Genee, both a semester short of graduation, will leave a legacy. Amarens Genee, a sophomore, is just as focused and successful in the classroom and the pool as her older sister. She will have to be part of Hawaii’s fresh foundation next year. Monika Eggens is the MPSF’s leading scorer after pouring in 22 goals in four matches last week, including a UH-record nine against Colorado State. She will have a year left after the Olympics.
"I hope her last year is like this year has been," Carmen Eggens says. "She can come back and lead the team and just have fun. This team has been so close this year. I hope she has that atmosphere."