The No. 5 Rainbow Wāhine water polo team fell to the No. 3 USC Trojans 12-9 on Friday night at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex. This game marks the third time that the Wāhine have lost to the Trojans this season.
“Physically, in each position, we can match with them,” Hawaii coach Maureen Cole said of the loss. “We just gave up too many easy goals and it was our mistakes today we have got to clean up.”
The Friday night match was also the Wāhine’s first in front of fans since their 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was incredible, that was such a great feeling to look up there in those stands,” Cole said. “It makes all the difference to hear the fans and it doesn’t be dead silence when you’re playing, so much more fun , so appreciative. ”
The Hawaii offense played well in the loss, scoring nine times on 21 shots for a .429 shooting percentage. They also took advantage of their power play opportunities scoring on three of four, giving them a .750 success rate. They also went a perfect two-for-two on penalty shots.
Defense is where the scales tipped in favor of the Trojans, The offense scored on 12-of-26 shots for a .462 shooting percentage. They matched the Wāhine, going two-for-two on penalty shots while adding three more on five power play attempts.
Sophomore attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix led the team with four points, scoring on two penalty shots while adding two assists. Sophomore utility Lara Luka added in two goals and one assist while freshman attacker Paula Prats Rodriguez had one goal and two assists. Redshirt senior center Elyse Lemay-Lavoie added in another two goals on the night.
Senior goalie Molly DiLalla ended her half with three saves while allowing seven for a save percentage of 0.300. Bridget Layburn replaced her in the second half, grabbing two saves and five goals allowed for a save percentage of 0.286.
“Until it’s clear that one’s better than the other, we’re going to keep splitting,” Cole said of her goalies. “I think they’re both doing a good job and they both have strengths and when it’s not one person’s day, it’s the other.”
The Wāhine started out slow, letting the Trojans go a perfect three-for-three on shots to their lone goal. They picked it up late tying it up with Lemay-Lavoie and Luka scoring two unanswered but the Trojans struck back to retake a two-point lead.
After going scoreless throughout the majority of the second period, Bonamusa Boix scored each of the Wāhine’s two goals on penalty shots. On the flip side, the defense stonewalled the Trojans late in the second with DiLalla recording her first two saves of the game.
The Wāhine continued to match the Trojans until Luka scored through a sea of hands with just under three minutes remaining. After matching goals, The Trojans snuck a shot past Layburn to maintain their two-point lead going into the final period.
Both teams shored up their defenses to open up the final period of play with neither team scoring in the first six minutes. The Trojan offense made a push in the final two minutes sparked by a penalty shot and ended with a Trojan three-point win.
“We just gotta clean up on some defensive mistakes and communication errors,” Cole said. “The Big West championship is two or three games in three days so I think this is a great preparation to play another game tomorrow.”
After the loss, the Wāhine moved to a 10-5 record on the season, a win percentage of .667, snapping their two-game win streak. The Wāhine will now remain at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex for a conference match against the No. 25 CSUN Matadors on Saturday, Mar. 19 at 6 pm HST.