With time spent in both locales, the Aloha spirit and California cool have rubbed off on Aubrey Carter.
But when she jumps, feet first, into the water, certain elements of her easygoing, soft-spoken personality start to dissipate.
“I’ll be fine outside the water and friendly and everything,” Carter said, “but in the water is competition, and I’m there to win.”
It’s been that way for the recent Kamehameha graduate since her freshman year when she suffered shin splints while running on the cross-country team. For rehabilitation, Carter was directed to the pool, and once there swimming coach Sydney Lyons offered a new direction, telling Carter, “You should go play water polo.”
“I just fell in love,” Carter said.
She’s just the latest in a long line of Warriors to be selected the coaches’ BIIF Player of the Year, but in following in the wake of mentors Katelynn Kubo (2016 POY) and Lahela Rosario (2018), Carter carved out a versatile niche all her own: a defensive specialist who developed her offensive game to become the best two-way force in the league.
”I was really excited. This was a personal goal for me at the beginning of the season,” Carter said of the honor. “I definitely think it was defense, but I knew if I wanted to be recognized that I would have to work on my offense. That’s what I tried, to work really hard on my offense and get points on the board for my team.”
Spurring Kamehameha’s counter-attack with menacing defense and breakaway swimming speed, Carter was a hat trick machine along with all-BIIF teammates Emma Kanoa and Nani Spaar as the Warriors rampaged to their second consecutive undefeated league campaign.
Carter helped set the tone early in the season with a seven-goal outburst against Hawaii Prep in a 20-7 victory, and she led the way with six the next time the teams met. The Warriors allowed only 4.4 goals per game, outscoring the competition 235-62 in 14 league contests, capping it off with a 10-5 win against HPA before finishing fourth at the state tournament.
Coach Dan Lyons appreciated Carter for her skill-set and the intangibles she brought to the team.
“She a very strong leader with a great work ethic,” Lyons said. “She’s very athletic, and she has that awareness for the game for what needs to take place.”
Kanoa is all-BIIF for a third time, while Carter and Spar become two-time selections. Also recognized were Kamehameha goalkeeper Aleia Awai, HPA’s Chloe Hughes, Kealakehe’s Shyani Sensano and Waiakea’s Korrie Tengan.
Add Spaar to the list of athletes who has made all-BIIF in multiple sports. The reigning co-BIIF POY in volleyball will be among the leading candidates to grab the honor in the pool during her senior season.
But 2019 was Carter’s time.
She was the first Warrior to come off the bench during her freshman season, and she said things started to click as a sophomore, though that season ended with a rare dose of disappointment. The only blip on the BIIF radar for the Warriors during the past 10 seasons was loss in the 2017 BIIF semifinals.
“It was definitely a good lesson, and a wow moment,” Carter said. “I never took any game lightly.”
Kamehameha hasn’t lost since.
Carter grew up in Riverside, Calif., before moving to the Big Island in the seventh grade to live with her grandparents, and she’s heading back home to attend Cal Baptist and study actuarial science – think math, and lots of it – and play water polo for the Lancers, reuniting with Rosario. She has a spot on the team as a walk-on with a chance to earn a scholarship, a decent bet if she takes to the college game as quickly as she did in high school.
“It was always a goal to move back to Cali,” she said. “Not far from family, but I’ll still in independent.”
She has the temperament to fit right in.