Girls Water Polo
Kahuku steps through to OIA title rematch


WAIPIO — It might be odd to think of the nine-time defending Oahu Interscholastic Association champions needing to step up to the challenge, but that's what Kahuku did, and that's what Kahuku does when it's playoffs time.

Siitia Cravens matched a season-high of four goals to help lead the Red Raiders past Roosevelt, 7-5, in the second of Friday afternoon's OIA semifinal matches at the K. Mark Takai Veteran's Memorial Aquatic Center at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.

After a tied first half, Kahuku eeked out to a two-score lead with a far cross-goal lob from Kaylee Vendiola and then on Cravens' second score in a man-up situation. But the Rough Riders battled back with an early fourth-quarter goal from Princess Gimeno, and then Lauren Croll — who had hit the crossbar on a penalty shot just a few minutes earlier — found the back of the net to tie it up with 1:19 left.

On the next possession, Kayla Smith tossed the ball to Cravens inside the 5-meter line where she was fouled by Margaret Lonborg and awarded a five-meter penalty shot. Cravens snuck her shot through the right side to put Kahuku up. Ava Padaca almost immediately grabbed a steal after the restart and Cravens slammed an insurance goal through as the Red Raiders sealed up the victory.

"I thought, 'If I missed this shot, the game could be lost,' so I just really tried to calm myself down," Cravens said. "I was just really stressed out and so much pressure for a penalty shot."

The Red Raiders' two regular season losses were the most they've ever had entering the OIA Playoffs in the 17-year history of the sport.

Kahuku avenged an 11-3 loss to the Rough Riders from a week ago and now advances to Saturday's championship match against undefeated Kaiser (14-0), whom they also lost to, 11-3, at the beginning of April. In the past two seasons, the Red Raiders also came back from lone regular season losses to beat that same team in the postseason.

"In the end, it really came out to we really wanted to win. We had that drive just to redeem ourselves and get revenge almost," Cravens said of the difference. "A lot of it's adrenaline. We've been hanging out so much we're all really close right now. We trust each other in the pool. Playoffs is a big deal and we're all treating it as such so it gets us hyped up."

Reach Spencer Honda at [email protected].

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