There’s a constant hum surrounding UH athletes, no matter what time of year. This is because when a season ends for one sport, it leaves room for another one to begin.
If you’re looking to follow Hawai‘i’s most consistently successful sport as of late, then turn your attention to the Rainbow Wahine water polo team.
The Rainbow Wahine currently rank No. 4 in the NCAA Collegiate Water Polo Association poll and hold a current record of 16-5. The team swept No. 8 Cal with scores of 10-9 and 7-6 victories. They also edged out No. 6 Michigan, 11-10.
Most recently, UH beat No. 7 UC Irvine, 3-2 with a game winning goal courtesy of freshman Irene Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s dagger happened with just 13 seconds left to give Hawai‘i win number 14.
“We’re lucky,” associate coach Ryan Castle said. “We’re benefiting from having a small roster. Here in Hawai‘i these girls have become very close and that’s what keeps our team tight and helps us in the water.”
Unlike last year’s team however, this year’s squad is a little different. Four starters from 2015’s Big West championship team are sitting out this season, creating larger roles for the team’s freshmen.
These big roles have led to big results. Of the 180 total goals the team has scored this season, 117 have been scored by freshman. Gonzalez leads Hawai‘i with 39 goals, followed by Netherlands-born Femke Aan with 37.
“It’s sort of nice that we’re just coming in as freshman and don’t have a preconceived idea,” freshman Julia Barton said. “We’re not worried about certain people because we haven’t played them before. Sure it took us a little while to gel, we were all on separate pages at first. But when it all comes together, it’s really nice to be a part of.”
Another factor contributing to the team’s success is the lack of pressure to excel as a small school, which the squad has embraced.
“I think people see us as a good force but everyone expects USC, UCLA or Stanford to win,” attacker Hannah Thompson said. “The pressure is kind of off us in a sense because we’re not expected to win all the time.”
The Wahine have had the challenge of playing 17 road games before their first at home. The team began their season playing in the UC Santa Barbara tournament, followed by the Brown and UC Irvine Invitationals.
Recently, the team finally began their five home games at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex. They hosted UC San Diego, CSU Bakersfield and will host UC Davis.
Hawai‘i’s first half of the season has been an undeniable success, but the team still has plenty of work to do yet. After UC Davis, the team will head to California once again, where they will conclude the season with another road trip. They will play Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State. Afterwards, their postseason will include the Big West Tournament and, if that goes as well as their season thus far, hopefully an appearance in the official NCAA tournament.