Hawai’i water polo dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

Hawai’i water polo dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

(From left to right) Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo seniors Alba Bonamusa Boix, Lot Stertefeld, Emma Gurasich and Lucia Gomez de la Puente pose for a picture after UH’s 12-3 Senior Night victory over #16 UCSB. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i dominant in Senior Night win, completes perfect Big West regular season

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APRIL 13, 2024

HONOLULU – Mo Goalz. 

The 2nd-ranked Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo team capped off an immaculate run through the Big West conference schedule Saturday night, boat-racing 16th-ranked UC Santa Barbara (14-13, 1-5 Big West) on Senior Night with a 12-3 victory to send off four seniors and veteran head coach Maureen Cole with a dominant victory in their final appearance in the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex. 

Hawai’i recognized senior goalkeeper Emma Gurasich, attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix, utility Lot Stertefeld and attacker Lucia Gomez de la Puente after the match while honoring Cole in her final home match after 13 seasons as the head coach of the Rainbow Wahine water polo program. In all, Cole has been with the Hawai’i program for 18 seasons and picked up her 50th win in Big West competition on Saturday. 

A Senior Night full of smiles got started quickly as UH senior utility Lot Stertefeld helped the Rainbow Wahine (19-3, 7-0 Big West) on the board first with a goal just 39 seconds into the contest with a power play giving Hawai’i an advantage.  

UH junior center Bia Mantellato Dias put away her team-leading 56th goal with 3:54 left in the opening quarter to push Hawai’i’s lead to two midway through the first frame. The lead grew to a few as sophomore attacker Roni Perlman snuck in a quick score with seven seconds left in the first frame to give the Rainbow Wahine a 3-0 advantage after one quarter. 

After winning the opening sprint in the 2nd quarter, Hawai’i extended the lead with two more goals in three minutes as Agatha Weston and Morgan Rios got in on the fun for the Rainbow Wahine. Consistent pressure and mounting momentum for Hawai’i forced the hand of UC Santa Barbara as the Gauchos called for timeout with 4:09 remaining in the 1st half.  

The stoppage did not slow Hawai’i as Perlman deposited her second goal of the night 26 seconds after the UCSB timeout to make it 6-0 in favor of the ‘Bows. Hawai’i senior attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix became the second of the seniors to put away a goal at the 3:05 mark of the 2nd quarter to extend the UH lead to seven.  Two minutes later, fellow senior attacker Lucia Gomez de la Puente completed the trio of UH seniors that would score on the night with a goal to push it to 8-0. 

Hawai’i freshman Esmee Roijen made it 9-0 with a goal with 21 seconds left in the half, but UC Santa Barbara’s Leigh Lyter snuck a goal through with two seconds remaining to break the scoring drought and send the Gauchos into the break trailing, 9-1. 

The fourth senior, goalkeeper Emma Gurasich, began the 2nd half in the net for Hawai’i as all four players that would be honored recorded statistics in the box sheet. While Gurasich recorded a pair of saves, Dias added her 57th goal of the year and second of the night at the 4:53 mark of the 3rd quarter to make it 10-1 in UH’s favor. 

Hawai’i junior attacker Bernadette Doyle made it a 10-goal lead for the ‘Bows with her first goal of the night coming at the 3:57 mark of the 4th quarter. UCSB responded with a pair of goals within 70 seconds of each other, but UH freshman attacker Allegra Childs’ goal with 2:07 left to play sent the good vibes into the end of the night as Hawai’i cruised to a 12-3 victory. 

Gurasich and UH starting keeper Daisy Logtens combined for 10 saves as the senior Gurasich allowed a pair of goals in her 16 minutes of action. Freshman keeper Daisy Logtens allowed one score just before exiting as the Hawai’i defense flexed all evening. 

The Rainbow Wahine scored on nearly half of their shot attempts, taking 28 shots to score 12 goals on the night while the defense tied a season-low in goals allowed with just three UCSB scores coming from 22 shots. 

Hawai’i won three of the night’s four sprints, failing to capture possession to begin a quarter in just the third period. In all, nine different Rainbow Wahine scored on the night while UH totaled 17 points to just three from UCSB.  

Hawai’i secured an outright claim to the Big West regular season title with the win, completing the third perfect run through the conference schedule since joining the Big West in 2013 and the second unbeaten conference record for UH in three seasons. Hawai’i outscored conference opponents 100-39 in 2024 and never trailed throughout seven matches in Big West play.  

The Rainbow Wahine will now wait two weeks before returning to the pool for a match on Friday, April 26 in the opening round of the Big West Championships. Hawai’i will take on the 8th seed in the tournament after securing the top seed with the match scheduled for 7 a.m. HT.  

Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s water polo utility Lot Stertefeld

Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s water polo utility Lot Stertefeld

Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine utility player Lot Stertefeld handles the ball for UH in a match. The senior is one of four players that will be honored on April 13 for Senior Night. | Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

Mana Wahine Wednesday: Hawai’i women’s water polo utility Lot Stertefeld

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 10, 2024

HONOLULU – Perhaps you don’t know her from her sport. You should, but you might not. 

Maybe, you recognize Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine utility player Lot Stertefeld from her day job, working as a student worker on campus serving concessions for Sodexo during other Hawai’i athletic events. 

As an international college student-athlete, Stertefeld must work on campus. With a full-time job’s worth of work in being an athlete, a full load of courses and the slightest social life, having work fit into a schedule can be difficult. Thanks in part to a flexible boss that helps get a schedule that works for the senior, Stertefeld and the Rainbow Wahine have been able to focus on one of the strongest seasons in program history. 

When Hawai’i enters the water on Saturday, it will mark one final time that a special group of four players, three from international backgrounds, take part in a match in the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex for the Rainbow Wahine. 

Emma Gurasich, Alba Bonamusa Boix, Lucia Gomez de la Puente and, of course, Stertefeld have all seen some incredible moments for the UH program, ranked an all-time program-high 2nd in the nation for the past seven weeks en route to a third regular-season Big West title in the past four seasons. 

From the eastern side of the Netherlands to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, success in the water polo pool is all Stertefeld has known. 

The senior utility player for Hawai’i comes from a water polo background, growing up with a father in Jaap Stertefeld that played the sport and was an official for water polo after his athletic career. With both parents pushing her and her two brothers to participate in team sports, soccer was the first try at athletics. 

“We tried soccer first and… that wasn’t it,” Stertefeld laughed. “My dad was like ‘let me take you to the pool’ and we signed up … I just loved [water polo] so much [that I kept playing].” 

Her two brothers, two and three years older in age, dove headfirst into the aquatic football activity as well, setting the tone and toughening up their younger sister. Stertefeld remembers family time competing on vacation in lakes against her dad and brothers in fun small-sided games. The conversation about water polo didn’t end when the family left the water, either. 

“[My family] are like, role models in water polo … All of our dinners are about water polo,” the senior utility chuckled. “My dad is a ref so he would give me tips, tell me what not to do or tell he saw that was wrong so that was fun on a dining table after a game.” 

Those tips, tricks and tune-ups worked to the favor of a young Stertefeld as she became an elite youth player, helping lead the Netherlands to a runner-up finish at both the U17 European Youth Championships in Serbia and the 2019 U20 World Youth Championships in Portugal. Her international experience also includes a bronze medal at the U20 European Youth Championships in 2019. 

When the time came for a decision on college, Hawai’i was the place that had caught the eye of the Dutch star with the assist of head coach Maureen Cole’s recruiting skills. After the 2019 World Youth Championships in Portugal, Cole sent a message to Stertefeld to test interest in joining the Rainbow Wahine program. To that point, a move to the United States had not crossed Stertefeld’s mind for more than a second. 

That changed after a few messages (and pictures) from Coach Mo. 

“She showed me some pictures of the islands and I was like ‘Sold!’ – like that’s amazing, [the outdoor pool], like all the pools back home are indoors, it’s always gloomy weather, it’s cold, it’s rainy,” Stertefeld said. “[In Hawai’i], it’s sunny all the time so it was an easy choice.” 

The opportunity to mix her prowess in the pool with her love for academics in the collegiate sports model in America also drew the interest of the Dutch standout. According to Stertefeld, it’s difficult to join education with athletics back home in the Netherlands and the chance to combine the two was a major factor in the move. 

Stertefeld has gone on to double-major, seeing herself dive into the world of both sociology and psychology as her majors. While rocking out in the pool, the senior has dominated in the classroom as well to the tune of multiple all-conference academic recognitions and a placement on the Big West Commissioner’s Honor Roll as a junior. 

Once she’s done in the islands, Stertefeld plans to pursue a masters’ degree in sports psychology in London with a desire to continue staying in athletics and working with future college student-athletes.  

The marriage in the pool has worked in both the senior and Hawai’i’s favor as the Rainbow Wahine have gone 66-17 over the four-season partnership, seeing three regular-season conference crowns and a Big West Championship win in Stertefeld’s freshman season – which she and other seniors referenced as one of their favorite memories while at UH. With a win on Saturday, Hawai’i would clinch the second perfect conference slate in the last three years and the third time since joining the Big West. 

Overall, Stertefeld has been a part of a historical group of Rainbow Wahine in the pool. For anyone who paid attention to her entire journey, the massive heights that the ‘Bows have reached this year and before are no surprise. For Stertefeld, the journey has been the transformative experience of a lifetime. 

“I feel like I just grew a lot here as a person,” the Dutch senior reflected. “The first time I’ve lived by myself, speaking different languages, meeting so many great people, getting to play under Coach Mo and Coach [James Robinson], I think [the entire experience has just] been great.” 

Hawai’i wraps up the regular season on Saturday, April 13 at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex against UC Santa Barbara at 6:00 p.m. HT and will honor four senior and head coach Maureen Cole, who is retiring after 13 seasons at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine program. UH enters the contest on a six-match winning streak and is looking for the second unbeaten conference season in the past three years. 

For the seniors, it’s about going out on the right note for themselves, Coach Mo, and the wonderful fans of Hawai’i. The experience is something that they will never forget. 

“I’m super grateful to have spent my years in Hawai’i and to play for such an amazing state,” Stertefeld reflected. “It just feels like we are so supported and loved and that’s just a really special feeling. I’m really thankful for that and I’m sad to leave but excited to look forward in my life.”