The roaring sea of red in the bleachers of Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center has become the norm for the Oahu Interscholastic Association girls water polo championship game.
Only, it wasn’t just the red of Kahuku. This time, a large gathering of Roosevelt red was in attendance, and the Rough Riders, not the Lady Raiders, were the higher seed coming into Saturday’s title match.
Kahuku got a goal by Kayla Grigsby with 4 seconds left in overtime for thrilling 9-8 victory over Roosevelt. It was drawn up and executed exactly as the Lady Raiders envisioned. Coach Larisa Luehrs wound up in the drink with her team as they celebrated the program’s 14th league down. Luehrs, a former Lady Raider player, is a 2005 Kahuku graduate.
Even with her background of success, the win on Saturday took everything out of her. She sat there on a bench, moments after her team and most of the audience had gone outside to continue the celebration. Head in her hands, just exhausted. A happy tired.
Kahuku led for a large chunk of the final quarter, but let a 7-5 lead disappear as Roosevelt hustled for two goals in the final 150 seconds. Then scorer deluxe April Gomes (six goals) had an open look from 12 feet out, but her shot caromed off the crossbar with 5 seconds left in regulation, and the game went into extra periods.
Again, Roosevelt was in command with an 8-7 lead in the second extra stanza, but Kahuku rallied with a goal to tie, setting up a power-play score by Grigsby. After going scoreless all afternoon, the gap was there for her as Roosevelt — with one player in the “penalty box” for a foul — smothered Kahuku’s top scorers, including Ava Countryman (three goals).
“We were concerned with 14 (Grace Rittenhouse) and 15 (Delilah Tia),” Roosevelt coach Susan Nishioka said.
Grigsby took the feed from goalie Noa Cravens and fired to the corner of the goal, all net.
“She’s our best shooter from that position,” Rittenhouse said of Grigsby, who was generally in a spot that would like the left elbow on a basketball court. “I looked at Noa and said, ‘You better pass to her.’ “
Cravens, who was superb with six kills, didn’t need the reminder. She had faith, she said, in her teammate. And even after a stunning loss to Roosevelt during the regular season, it all worked together for Kahuku’s good.
“Roosevelt is a bit more of a challenge than normal OIA teams. We lost to them last Saturday, so they were the No. 1 seed (in the East). Practice got more intense. It was a reality check,” said Cravens, a senior co-captain. “We just realized we wanted to push even harder.”