KEAAU — A friend asked Kamehameha-Hawaii goalkeeper Kelly Fitzgerald before Saturday’s match against Lahainaluna if the Warriors were going face a challenge.
Fitzgerald’s response was thoughtful: If you’re in the right mindset, every match is a challenge.
So even after they went untested all season, the Warriors were able to come from behind for the second consecutive water polo match, beating Lahainaluna 9-8 at Naeole Pool for their third straight fifth-place finish at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, it matters how hard you play,” said Fitzgerald, a senior who was strong in net with eight saves.
Senior Chloe Martins-Keliihoomalu recorded a hat trick to lead a balanced attack that has become a trademark for Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Kamehameha (14-1).
For the second day in a row, Halia Nahale-a put the Warriors ahead for good with a goal midway through the fourth quarter, taking a pass from Pua Wong.
“I thought we played a little better today,” coach Dan Lyons said. “We played pretty ugly yesterday (8-7 win against Kapolei).
“We tried very hard to make it a competitive and close game. The thing that you learn about them is they don’t give up. They keep going. They get behind and fight back. I guess it’s not hard for them to play in a close game.”
Martins-Keliihoomalu said the Warriors suffered their usual second-quarter swoon. In BIIF play, it’s because Kamehameha is substituting and comfortably ahead. But on Saturday, the Maui Interscholastic Federation champion Lunas took advantage of Fitzgerald’s absence in goal in the second quarter to chip away at a 4-0 deficit.
Lahainaluina’s Lalelei Mataafa scored in the third quarter to cap a 5-0 spurt, but Martins-Keliihoomalu answered with perhaps the biggest goal of the match to help the Warriors find their footing.
“We don’t have that much pressure on us in BIIFs. At states, it’s a lot harder intensity,” said Martins-Keliihoomalu, who capped her hat trick by swiping in a Nahale-a miss in front. “It wasn’t our best game, but we did pull through and never gave up.”
Lahainaluna’s Haleigh Berko tied the match with a goal early in the fourth quarter when Kamehameha was called for an exclusion foul, but Nahale-a didn’t miss on her next shot for her second goal of the match and an 8-7 lead. Sophomore Katelynn Kubo took a long outlet pass and converted for an insurance goal.
Wong and senior Cassidy Fratinardo also scored for the Warriors, as did Shola Kahiapo, who was filling in for injured senior Acacia Trusdell.
“I think every game has ups and downs,” Fitzgerald said. “I think we were excited because a lot of us were playing our last games. It affects other people, too, because we’re a close team.”
Mataafa was a threat to score from virtually anywhere in the pool, finishing with four goals. But she could have posted more if not for some fancy saves by Fitzgerald.
After turning away Lahainaluna, Fitzgerald again turned thoughtful.
“Lalelei is a great a player, and I think what’s even more important is she’s a great person,” Fitzgerald said. “You can be the best player ever, but if you don’t have respect for others, what the point?”