By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — T here was a snafu in calling a timeout, and Dan Lyons probably would have made more substitutions if he had been on the bench.
But other than those two minor issues, you hardly would have noticed that Kamehameha was playing without its coach. Left to their own devices Saturday, the Warriors dished out their usual dose of Big Island Interscholastic Federation dominance at Naeole Pool.
Player/coaches Sydney Plunkett and Paula Imoto each scored five goals as Kamehameha breezed past Hawaii Prep 12-3 to continue its march toward a potential fourth straight undefeated BIIF season in water polo.
“No coach, no problem,” Plunkett joked. “But we do miss him a lot. He definitely is the heart and soul of our team. This challenge has definitely made us see how much work goes into running a successful, undefeated water polo team.”
Lyons left last Monday to go watch his daughters play on the mainland, leaving his well-oiled water polo machine in the hands of his seniors. They tended to practices, and while associate athletic director Nelson Wong sat poolside Saturday, Plunkett, Imoto and Baba Manoha ran the show.
“There was some anxiety, and I will admit that I told (Coach) that he can never leave us again,” Plunkett said. “I really miss him.”
However, Lyons can take his time coming back. These Warriors looked fine on their own.
“It was definitely a challenge during practices,” Imoto said. “There is still some stuff to work on, but overall we did really good.”
Imoto and Plunkett gave themselves a breather in Kamehameha’s second match of the day, a 16-2 victory against Konawaena in which the Warriors (8-0) wrapped up the regular-season title and earned a berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
None of Kamehameha’s players have lost a BIIF match, but Imoto said this team is better equipped than any she’s been on to make a deep run at the state tournament.
“Over the four years I’ve played, I think this is the best our team has ever been,” she said. “The communication of the girls is the best.”
Even without their coach, the Warriors showed that by playing smothering defense against the Ka Makani (6-2). Kamehameha held a 30-17 shot advantage to beat its closest pursuer in the BIIF for the second time this season.
Two goals by Imoto from the perimeter and another by Plunkett staked Kamehameha to a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and Pua Wong’s goal gave Kamehameha a 5-1 halftime lead.
Plunkett, who split time with Halia Nahale-a at the two-meter position, scored four of her goals on the inside, including three in the fourth quarter to increase her BIIF-leading total to 30.
Afterward, she traded in her player’s cap for that of a coach.
“Our team is amazing,” she said. “Baba Manoha is a great 2-meter defender. Halia has really helped us out.
“Paula, I think you’ve seen some of her steals and recoveries. She’s just an amazing swimmer.”
Anu Nihipali, Jellian Cuartero and Bhillie Luciani scored for Hawaii Prep and Seychelle Francis made 12 saves. Luciani’s goal came in the fourth quarter on the ensuing play off a penalty shot, which the Warriors drew because of calling an illegal timeout.
Kamehameha didn’t have many other problems, especially with the emergence of Imoto. Always a capable defender, she’s helped picked up the scoring slack this season after 2012 league player of the year Kiana Krzyska graduated.
On one play early in the third quarter, she forced a turnover in the Ka Makani’s zone, patiently waited, then fed a surging Acacia Trusdell for goal that gave Kamehameha a 6-1 lead.
“Scoring more,” Imoto said, “but what I really like is assisting people.”
Kelly Fitzgerald blocked five shots in goal for Kamehameha.
Konawaena 9, Hilo 8: Mahealani Yoshida’s fourth goal of the game with 19 seconds left lifted the Wildcats to their first win of the season.
Kaulana Ruedy led Konawaena (1-7) with five goals.
Ginger Carlson scored four times for Hilo (1-7) and Alana Flaherty and Riley Cabarloc each scored twice.
Kealakehe 7, Waiakea 5: Mehana Pilago and Riley Carlson each scored twice as the Waveriders (5-3) bolstered their playoff positioning with a pair of victories. Chenoa Jesser, Madeline Foo and Sarah Somsanguansit added goals.
Akemi King scored twice for Waiakea (3-5), while Mary Economy, Jillian Hughes and Kirstie-Flores-Oishi each found the net once.
Kamehameha 16, Konawaena 2: Hoea Makaiki and Cassidy Fratinardo each tallied six goals apiece for the Warriors, Katelynn Kubo added two goals and Anuhea Leite-AhYo and Pua Wong also scored.
Katie Andrade accounted for the Wildcats’ two scores.
Hawaii Prep 13, Waiakea 10: Anu Nihipali’s seven goals and Bhillie Luciani’s hat trick helped the Ka Makani rebound. Lizzie Jim, Sarah Cavanaugh and Hannah Twigg-Smith also contributed goals.
Jillian Hughes led the way for Waiakea with four goals and Akemi King added a hat trick. Kirstie-Flores-Oishi found the back of the net twice and Mary Economy had a goal.
Kealakehe 18, Hilo 2: Mehana Pilago scored five times and Sarah Somsanguansit and Naomi Tomlinson notched hat tricks to power the Waveriders. Riley Cabarloc and Hannah Hewitt each scored twice and Maile McCormack, Sully Schuster and Madeline Foo also scored.
Alana Flaherty and Angela Krahner put Hilo on the board.