Hawai’i advances to first NCAA Semifinal since 2013 with big win over Princeton

Hawai’i advances to first NCAA Semifinal since 2013 with big win over Princeton

Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo head coach Maureen Cole looks on during a match for UH. The Rainbow Wahine were 11-6 winners over Princeton in the National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship quarterfinals on Friday, May 10. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i advances to first NCAA Semifinal since 2013 with big win over Princeton

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 10, 2024

From second season to swan song, the NCAA Semifinal round has become Hawai’i head coach Maureen Cole’s ultimate hill to climb.  

A dream season rolled on for Cole’s Rainbow Wahine water polo team Friday afternoon, as the 2nd-seeded Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (23-3) turned in an impressive 11-6 victory over the Princeton Tigers in the National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship quarterfinals. Behind junior utility Jordan Wedderburn’s game-best three goals, Hawai’i was able to rattle off the team’s 11th consecutive victory after an 11-day layoff leading into the tournament. 

The hat trick for Wedderburn was the South Africa native’s fifth of the season, pacing the Rainbow Wahine to a consistent attack that built a comfortable lead for Hawai’i with a strong response after Princeton won the opening sprint and scored on a power play just over thirty seconds into the game. 

Alba Bonamusa Boix got Hawai’i on the board with her first goal of the match at the 6:01 mark of the 1st quarter and fellow senior Lot Stertefeld gave the Rainbow Wahine their first lead with just over four minutes left in the opening frame with her lone goal of the afternoon. Freshman Agatha Weston got in on the act just before the end of the period with a goal from straightaway to give a 3-1 lead to UH heading into the 2nd quarter. 

Bonamusa Boix laced home her second goal of the game with 4:31 left in the opening half to extend the Hawai’i lead to 4-1 and Wedderburn got on the board herself with her first goal of the match just over a minute later to push the margin to four. Princeton settled with a goal to make it 5-2 with three minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter, but back-to-back scores from Wedderburn and back-to-back Big West Player of the Year Bia Mantellato Dias gave the Rainbow Wahine a halftime lead by a handful, 7-2. 

The ‘Bows continued the onslaught in the 3rd quarter as Bernadette Doyle finished on a penalty opportunity less than a minute out of the break and quickly responded to a goal from Princeton with 5:19 left in the period with another score of her own just 36 seconds later to make it 9-3 in favor of UH. 

Wedderburn completed the hat trick with 2:12 remaining in the 3rd quarter, banking in the 10th goal of the day for Hawai’i before Roni Pearlman’s goal with 35 ticks left on the timer before the 4th quarter gave UH a commanding 11-3 lead. 

The Rainbow Wahine continued to hold the Tigers in check until Olivia Krotts was able to sneak a ball into the back of the UH net for her 20th goal of the season with 2:13 remaining. Kaila Carroll continued to play until the final horn for Princeton, drilling back-to-back goals within 57 seconds of each other to make it an 11-6 deficit before the buzzer sounded, sending Hawai’i to heights not seen since Maureen Cole’s 2nd season at the helm – into the semifinals as her swan song continues. 

In all, seven different Hawai’i players scored in the victory as Alba Bonamusa Boix and Bernadette Doyle chipped in a pair of goals each to cushion Wedderburn’s three-goal outing while pushing the Rainbow Wahine into a final four matchup with tournament host and 3rd-seeded California. 

Cal was a 14-7 winner over Fresno State on Friday, advancing to the semifinal round against Hawai’i. The Golden Bears were one of two teams that beat the Rainbow Wahine in the regular season, sneaking by the ‘Bows back on March 10 in Berkeley, 9-8. Hawai’i won the first meeting between the two back on February 24, 10-7, during the Barbara Kalbus Invitational in Irvine, California.  

2nd-seeded Hawai’i and 3rd-seeded California will meet in the semifinal round of the National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship tournament with the match scheduled for 1:00 p.m. HT on NCAA.com – here.