PUKALANI - For a record 52 matches in a row, the Baldwin High School girls water polo team watched Lahainaluna dominate the Maui Interscholastic League.
For the last two seasons, however, the Bears have been the owners of the MIL title.
Baldwin took its second straight championship Wednesday, riding a nine-goal performance by junior center Alea Weber to a hard-fought 16-12 win over Lahainaluna in the league tournament final at the Kamehameha Maui pool.
Yvonne Ngalu (left) and Jazmine Harmon celebrate Baldwin High School’s 16-12 win over Lahainaluna in the Maui Interscholastic League tournament final Wednesday at the Kamehameha Maui pool.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Baldwin’s Alea Weber and Lahainaluna’s Bridget Joy race for a ball during the second quarter of Wednesday’s match.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The victory wrapped up an 8-0 regular season for the Bears (12-1 overall) that included three wins over the Lunas (5-3), who won six straight crowns before Baldwin's current run.
Both teams will be at the state tournament, scheduled for May 7-10 on Oahu.
"We are extremely happy, especially since (the Lunas) came out and gave us a really good game," Weber said with an MIL gold medal wrapped around her neck. "It was really fun, it was really rewarding."
The previous time these teams met, three weeks ago, Baldwin won 18-5 at the Lahaina Aquatic Center.
In Wednesday's match, the score was tied six times through 6-6. The Bears eventually built a 15-8 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Lunas scored the next four goals, three of them by freshman Lalelei Mataafa, to close within 15-12 with 1 minute, 29 seconds to play. Mataafa matched Weber with nine goals.
"I was expecting them to come back and give a fight," said Weber, whose steal and ensuing goal with 43 seconds to go capped the scoring. "You know, it's for the MIL championship, but I wasn't expecting them to come out and improve so much from last game. So, it took me by surprise, but it was so much fun. They gave us a good run for our money."
Weber said the match will help both teams on Oahu.
"The teams out there are tougher and stronger and they have been playing and they have bigger teams, but we are going to go and we are going to fight," she said.
Mataafa was also an unbeaten state champion wrestler in the winter.
"I think she played one of her best games," Weber said. "She was incredibly on it, she has an amazingly hard shot, it's really hard to block."
Lahainaluna's Bridget Joy sent a shot off the crossbar in the final minute that would have closed the gap to two.
"At one point I was kind of worried, but I knew our team was strong and I knew that we could fight until the end," Weber said.
Baldwin coach Stan Zitnik was impressed with both teams.
"The Lunas are a great team, they are very well-coached, very impressive," he said. "We are excited, but it is hard because we train in Kahului Pool. It's a narrow, five-lane, shallow-end pool, so we don't have a chance to run any counterattack, we are sort of limited. (The state tournament) is going to be a challenge for us, like it was today, to adapt to a larger pool. The girls played very well and I'm happy with their performance."
Lahainaluna coach Brad Mason was pleased with his team's charge.
"It was a great comeback, we were down seven goals in the fourth quarter and we stormed back," he said. "They were worried, you could tell that. We really never say die and I love that. A lot of heart out there."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Goals-Lahainaluna: Lalelei Mataafa 9, Hannelore Rolfing 1, Bridget Joy 1, Haleigh Berko 1. Baldwin: Alea Weber 9, Jazmine Harmon 3, Deme DeShayne 3, Alyssa Waki 1.