Three Punahou water polo seniors are close to going undefeated for the sixth straight season, including two intermediate years.
It’s been an incredible run so far, and it’s not over. the Buffanblu still have to navigate the rest of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season and the state tournament in early May.
Goalkeeper Emalia Eichelberger, center attacker Saki Migliorato and outside attacker and defender Natassia Dunn are the leadership core of Punahou this season.
Eichelberger signed to play for Stanford and has her sights set on becoming an Olympian, Migliorato will choose between Harvard, Brown and several schools in the United Kingdom, and Dunn has been accepted to UCLA and Claremont and will play somewhere at the next level, according to head coach Ken Smith.
“Leadership and setting the tone comes from upperclassmen and these three are as good as any three we’ve ever had in continuing and perpetuating the culture we have. It makes everyone want to train hard,” Smith said.
During a phone interview Monday, Dave Eichelberger — the former PGA Tour golfer and the father of Emalia — said that the team’s undefeated records through the years did not come easy and was a result of hard work by the whole team.
Migliorato tries not to think about the streak.
“If I think about it, it will get me nervous and more stressed out before games,” she said. “We try to play each game like we’re losing and have to catch back up. That way, we stay motivated and it challenges us to improve.”
In varsity competition alone, Smith said someone close to the team recently told him that the Buffanblu are nearing or have recently passed 100 wins in a row, dating back to 2008, when they won the first of eight straight state titles. They’re going for nine in a row and 11 overall (since the inaugural state tournament in 2004).
“All three seniors are great academically, too,” Smith added.
The speedy Dunn, who swims for Punahou and placed third in the states in the 50-yard freestyle last year, talked about the other two: “Emalia is always a rock in the goal. She’ll get what we miss and she’s always talking to us. Saki is so great and she’s super aggressive in a team way. When we get her the ball, she puts it away.”
Migliorato, who accidentally knocked out half of Eichelberger’s tooth with a hard shot off the crossbar during practice last week, related how the three have come such a long way since seventh grade.
“I remember when we were in middle school, we were so bad,” she said. “We kind have come into our own as individuals and are also a lot more cohesive. We have different specialties, and combined together, we have a really good offense and defense.”
A feature story about Emalia Eichelberger ran in the Tuesday edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Subscribers can read it here: http://bit.ly/1MRx1Vn