By JOHN DE GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
A year ago, recent Konawaena graduate Katie Andrade had never played water polo. Now, she is heading to Orange Coast Community College to play the sport at the next level.
The former Wildcat will be receiving scholarship money from the Costa Mesa, Calif., school that will cover a good portion of her costs.
“It was really fun and intense,” Andrade said of her first time playing the sport. “I picked it up because I heard it was a good way to stay in shape, but I never imagined going anywhere with it. ”
Andrade planned on attending college after graduating in May and mulled attempting to walk on to a program to play basketball.
When she stumbled upon Orange Coast College’s water polo team she immediately jumped at the opportunity and emailed head coach Adam Lee. Within a day Lee got back to Andrade and told her he would be thrilled to have her on the team.
“I’m excited,” Andrade said. “It’s a great, new opportunity for me, and I’m always happy to take advantage of those.”
Orange Coast College finished with a record of 17-11 last season and finished fourth in the seven-team Orange Empire College conference.
Before this season, Konawaena hadn’t fielded a water polo team since 2007 — a big reason why Andrade had never played the sport.
Andrade was a multi-sport athlete during her time at Konawaena, playing basketball, volleyball and participating in rodeo during the offseason. She used the skills she picked up in the other sports and raw athletic ability to adapt to the new arena, scoring 20 goals in her debut season.
“Playing a water sport was something different,” Andrade said. “Being on the basketball team really helped me because it was basically the same offense and defensive skills. It came really easy for me, and I was able to have fun with it.”
Andrade’s mother, Joni Loando, has watched her kids compete in sports for years, but water polo was something unfamiliar.
“I knew nothing about the sport,” said Loando, who saw Katie’s brother Mikey accept a scholarship last year to play football at the University of Hawaii. “I’m familiar with football but not so much with water polo.”
While leaving the island behind will be tough, Andrade will have a support system to help her along as she settles into a new home.
“I have an aunt who lives just 30 minutes away so it is comforting to have family nearby,” Andrade said. “I will miss everything from back home but I can’t wait to get up there.”