WAIPIO — The lone senior on the Kahuku Girls Water Polo team was not going to see the program's championship streak end on her watch.
Indie Pyzel scored all of her team-high three goals in the second half to help the Red Raiders stave off Roosevelt, 8-6 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association title game Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.
Kahuku (13-1) captured its seventh straight and 13th overall league title in the process and also avenged a 6-5 loss to the Rough Riders (14-1) during the regular season, its first loss in league play since 2010.
"After that we definitely settled down and focused in on a target," said Pyzel, who now has 41 goals on the season.
Pyzel said the regular season loss to Roosevelt was "refreshing" because it kept the team from being complacent.
"For the new girls — most of our team are sophomores — these girls haven't (really) experienced the hard work that you really need to put in so it was really cool to see everybody come together and be like ‘oh wait, we don't just get things handed to us, we need to work for them,' and it really brought the entire team up as a whole."
The Red Raiders never trailed in the contest and had a 3-0 lead after the opening period, converting on three of their five first quarter shots.
Kea Kunz got the scoring going after rifling a shot into the top right corner of the Roosevelt net from seven meters out at the 4:30 mark. Selfless passing from Grace Rittenhouse to Pyzel to Ava Countryman extended Kahuku's lead to two. Rittenhouse was later rewarded for the hockey pass, scoring on a pass from Izzy Walker with 29 seconds left in the stanza.
"I always tell the kids, ‘if you get the first five goals in the game, you win.' That's what we were shooting for and that's what we were trying to do," said Kahuku coach Aaron Waldrip.
Roosevelt on the other hand struggled to get a good shot off in the first quarter and was 0-for-9 from the field in the opening period.
"It's been kind of a problem all season, our shooting percentage is kind of low," said Roosevelt coach Susan Nishioka.
Instead of trying to work it down low against Kahuku's drop defense, the Rough Riders adjusted and worked to get clean shots from distance.
On Roosevelt's first possession of the second quarter, Taylor Brooks scored on a straightaway shot from nine meters out to get on the board. Sarah Yasuda later made it a one score game, 3-2, with a high-arching shot that went over Kahuku goalkeeper Noa Cravens and into the net three minutes into the second period.
Walker scored a key goal for the Red Raiders with less than a minute remaining in the first half to give her team a 4-2 cushion at the break.
With four teammates in the box score, Pyzel began to take over. The 5-foot-8 senior established good position in the hole set and scored on a pass from Walker to give Kahuku a 5-2 lead. After Brooks scored while being tripled team, Pyzel answered with a powered shot from close range to make it a 6-3 game.
"I feel the most important thing as a team captain is to make sure everybody feels important and that everybody gets their chance in the game, so I felt (everyone) had their chance and I was ready to take mine," said Pyzel.
But the Rough Riders would not go down quietly. Brooks responded with a no-look, behind-the-back shot that reinvigorated Roosevelt's spirits on the possession after Pyzel's second goal.
"She's just amazing, you can't leave her alone," Pyzel said on Brooks. "We need at least two of us on her."
Rayna Miranda added another Roosevelt score on a power play before the third quarter was over to make it a 6-5 game heading into the final period of regulation.
"We just told them to calm down and work our way back in there," said Nishioka.
The Red Raiders got power play goal of their own on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Pyzel waited a couple of seconds for the short-handed Rough Riders to converge on her before getting her final goal of the game.
Three bad possessions by Roosevelt after Pyzel's goal helped whittle the clock down before the Rough Riders called a timeout with 2:17 remaining. After Roosevelt drew up a play, Brooks fed Tristyn Oki to cut Kahuku's lead to one, 7-6.
Like she did in the second quarter, Walker added a key goal on a push shot that beat the shot clock on the following possession for the game's final score. Roosevelt's final two possessions ended in a turnover and a high shot and the Red Raiders were able to retain the crown.
"I don't love close games when I'm in it, but I love close games when I'm thinking back because it's more exciting," said Waldrip. "It feels better when you win a game that you really had to duke it out to win. I'm pretty happy with the way it came out, but Roosevelt put up a great fight today. What a worthy opponent."
Both teams have already qualified for next week's state tournament.
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