KEAAU – There were moments of sluggishness, gaffes here and there, a game opponent and coach Dan Lyons wished Kamehameha would have cleaned up rebounds better in front of its goal.
All of that amounted to a mere ripple of adversity for the Warriors’ water polo team, which continues to deal primarily in first-world problems.
The lap of luxury comes with options, and Nani Spaar – a volleyball standout with height and length to spare – is a good one to have. Spaar scored four goals Saturday as Kamehameha propelled past Hawaii Prep 10-5 at Naeole Pool for its second consecutive BIIF championship and ninth in 10 seasons.
“Nani is amazing,” senior Cassidy Farias said. “So kind and humble.
“I just know when Nani has the ball, I’m comfortable with that. I know she’s got it.”
The same could be said of seniors Aubrey Carter, who scored three goals, Emma Kanoa (one) and sophomore Ocean Akau (two) – the next wave of talent is already here. Farias stays out of matters on the offensive end sometimes so she can backstroke toward the other end of the pool to deny counter-attacks and focus on defense, as do fellow four-year contributors Aleia Awai, a goalkeeper, and Kaori Nishioka.
“The whole game will stay in my memory forever,” Spaar said, “because I love this team so much. Afterward, I was crying a little because I was emotional, cause we’re never going be in the water with the same girls again.”
The junior is the reigning co-BIIF Division I volleyball player of the year, and most recently she led Pilipaa to a historic title at the Haili Volleyball Tournament. Former Warrior Pua Wong helped sparked Spaar’s interest in water polo in middle school, and she played goalkeeper last season before becoming a handful to guard in the pool this season.
“It’s really nice to have someone that’s 6 feet tall and whenever we have the opportunity we can throw it up to her,” Lyons said. “We missed her a bunch of times. She should have had three or four more goals. She plays really good defense, too.
“She’s a volleyball player, but she’s also a water polo player.”
Right out of the gate, Spaar scored twice, sandwiched around a goal by Carter, and the pool party looked to be underway when HPA coach Greg McKenna was forced to call a timeout down 3-0 less than halfway through the first quarter.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation: Ka Makani came to play, especially Morgan Davis, who matched Spaar with four goals.
Before the Warriors (13-0) exited the pool after the final buzzer, many players said had the same sentiment: “Give them a hug. They played tough.”
“They played really, really well,” Farias said. “Give them a hug because it’s a tough sport, and it’s very physical. You don’t want them to take it personally outside the of water. You want to be friends outside the water but make each other better in the water.”
HPA – which will return to Naeole Pool on April 29 for an HHSAA first-round game – and goalkeeper Aja Taylor held Kamehameha to its lowest goal total of the season. The Warriors’ previous closest game was an eight-goal victory against Waiakea in which Lyons, as usual, was able to rest most of his starters and empty the bench.
Not in the final.
“There was never a point where we were comfortable just because how great they were playing,” Spaar said.
Chloe Hughes’ goal cut HPA’s deficit to 5-4 early in the third quarter, and after Kanoa and Spaar answered with scores, Davis’ final tally made it 7-5.
The fourth quarter, however, was closing time for Kamehameha, which got three quick goals in rapid-fire succession from Akau, Spaar, and Carter, two of them coming after HPA was called for exclusion fouls.
“The discussion at that point was are you more tired than wanting to win, or do you want to win more than you’re tired,” Lyons said. “They decided they wanted to win more than they were tired.
“It’s good when you’re not playing you’re best and still figuring it out.”
With its second consecutive undefeated season in tow, Kamehameha advances to an HHSAA quarterfinal match May 2 on Oahu.
Spaar was committed to play volleyball at Division I Temple but has since decided to reopen her recruitment. Lyons thinks she has a chance to play at the next level in water polo as well, if she so chooses.
“He always tells me that, but I’m going to stick with volleyball,” she said.
It is, however, good to have options.