The No. 4 University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Wahine water polo team (15-5) defeated the No. 10 UC San Diego Tritons (19-9) in a thrilling fashion this past Saturday afternoon. They came back to force UCSD into overtime and won, 11-10 at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Center.
“What allowed us to win this game was the preparation and being confident in those clutch moments,” head coach Maureen Cole said. “This team isn’t afraid and we have each other’s backs. They’re ready to battle and they never lose hope and I think that’s important. When the going gets tough, you can either crumble or do something about it and this group did something about it.”
Like Thursdays game against UC Irvine, both teams played in a tight match throughout. The ‘Bows and Tritons traded goals in the opening sequences and were tied 2-2 after one quarter.
UCSD were in position to grab momentum after they scored goals in the beginning of the second quarter to lead 4-2. Hawai‘i, however, was the beneficiary of utility Julia Barton’s second goal of the half. Her score just before the midway put UH’s lead up 4-3.
The Wahine came out strong in the third quarter then and eventually took a 6-5 lead via another goal from Barton. UC San Diego tied it up then with a Laurel Kistler goal at the end of the third and grabbed momentum going to the fourth.
The Tritons regained the lead 8-7 after scoring on a 2-1 fast break and extended their lead to 9-7 on after UCSD’s Alexis Wieseler’s penalty shot.
Down by two goals with under a two minutes remaining, the Rainbow Wahine had no plans of losing.
Hawai‘i star attacker Irene Gonzalez promptly picked up a loose ball in the middle of Hawai‘i’s second-to-last possession of regulation and flipped it in the back of the net for a goal. Just moments later, Gonzalez threw in a goal to tie up the score with just a second remaining.
“Everyone was shouting at me to take it [the last shot]. Last game it was the same thing,” Gonzalez said. “In this situation we had a 6-on-5 man advantage. When I heard them I knew I had to shoot so whatever happened [after that], I knew it would be okay.”
With the game tied at the end of regulation the ‘Bows and Tritons went to overtime that consisted of two three minute periods.
UCSD scored the first goal of the first overtime period, but Hawai‘i came back once again. Utility Femke Aan scored on consecutive possessions for UH in the second overtime period, to take the lead.
On the final possession, with just 44 seconds left, the ‘Bows shut down the Tritons’ offense, sealing the victory.
Gonzalez had a standout performance, scoring four goals for the Wahine. Barton finished with a hat-trick, scoring three goals while Aan added two to the board.
Next up, the Rainbow Wahine will host CSU Bakersfield later in the day as part of a Saturday double-header. The match is set to begin at 6 p.m. HST.