As a freshman, Acacia Trusdell was a reserve on a 2011 Kamehameha water polo team that started one current and two future Big Island Interscholastic Federation Players of the Year.
So Trusdell had ample time to take notes.
“I saw all the girls and how they would work hard,” she said. “I saw them put in the extra time.”
Warriors coach Dan Lyons recalls Trusdell was a “good swimmer with decent ball kills,” and he saw her display one clear intangible from the start: leadership.
That trait above all else helped Trusdell follow in the footsteps of former teammates Ryenn Lyons (2010-11), Kiana Krzyska (2012) and Sydney Plunkett (2013) as the coaches’ selection for BIIF Player of the Year.
“Too see my work pay off, too, I feel honored to have the title,” Trusdell said.
Lyons had perhaps the toughest job. All six of his starters besides goalkeeper Kelly Fitzgerald scored between 30 and 36 goals as Kamehameha racked up its fifth straight unbeaten BIIF season.
But Lyons could only choose one player to nominate for POY.
“It was hard to cut it down,” he said. “But Acacia has been a leader for us for four years, and I think the other coaches saw that. She is very deserving. She swims well, plays defense and has one of the strongest arms in the league.”
Another tempting choice for the coaches was Kealakehe senior Mehana Pilago, who tallied a league-high 57 goals.
“I think what separates us from some other teams is that while they have one player, we have many,” Lyons said.
Trusdell played volleyball in middle school, but since she had been a club swimmer when she was younger, she made water polo her sport in high school.
She didn’t score a goal coming off the bench her freshman season, but Trusdell said she steadily gained confidence after becoming a starter as a sophomore.
“I was timid as a freshman, but ever since then I’ve improved offensively in becoming more aggressive and attacking the goal,” she said.
Trusdell registered 33 goals, third best on her team, as a senior before dislocating her shoulder during a consolation game at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament as Kamehameha (14-1) wound up fifth in the state.
She was joined on the All-BIIF first team by teammates Halia Nahale-a (36 goals), Katelynn Kubo (31) and Fitzgerald, Hawaii Prep’s Seychelle Francis (22), Waiakea’s Coco Flores-Oishi (19) and Pilago.
Konawaena’s Michael Godden was honored as Coach of the Year after transforming the Wildcats into a playoff team in only their second season.
“He did a heck of a job,” Lyons said. “I was happy to vote for him.”
Chloe Martins-Keliihoomalu (36 goals), Cassidy Fratinardo (31) and Pua Wong (30) were among the honorable mention selections on a Kamehameha team marked by its uncanny balance.
“It was something special to know that we had a bunch of girls who could depend on one another,” Trusdell said. “It alleviated pressure and allowed the entire team to have fun.”
Trusdell applied to a number of universities, but she’s long had her eye on Azusa Pacific. When the school approximately 26 miles northeast of Los Angeles offered her a grant and a chance to play water polo, her college search was all but finished.
“From education to atmosphere to athletics, it’s everything I want,” said Trusdell, who plans to study biology with an emphasis on ecology. “I’ve been aiming to go there since I was a freshman.”