LAHAINA - Lahainaluna High School water polo coach Bradley Mason is a relative newcomer to Maui, having arrived here on the West Side some four years ago from Illinois, but he has nonetheless made his impact felt as the leader of the Lady Lunas program in that short span of time.
Long a powerhouse in Maui Interscholastic League water polo competition in the inaugural years of the sport here on the Valley Isle, the Lady Lunas had fallen from the top of the standings in recent years to a third place finish in 2012 and second the following season.
Under Mason's leadership, however, the Red Tide has weathered the storm and is once again rising to the top. Just past the halfway point of the season, undefeated Lahainaluna is riding high in first place with a 6-0 mark, which includes a crucial victory over top contender Baldwin.
The team is 6-0 with four regular season matches to play, including a crucial contest versus Baldwin. PHOTO BY ART FILLAZAR.
"We've worked a lot on strength conditioning, speed work in the pool and dry land, and basic skills in the off-season and early in the year," said Coach Mason, who is assisted by Zach Johnson, Hailey Gill and Scott Fleck.
"The seniors and juniors on the team have been helping with getting the younger players involved with the workouts and in familiarizing them with the game. In a game earlier this season, all 14 of our players scored a goal, and this is the collective mentality of the team - that they all could contribute to the win. They are really a fun group in this way - pushing each other, helping each other, working harder than ever toward goals together - and this has really made it fun for the coaches. We can't ask for more than that."
According to Mason, this season the Lady Lunas have the added advantage of a new crop of outstanding swimmers to complement the experience and talent of the returning players.
"We can use an inside out power game and speed counter attacks with the new, young swimmers," explained Coach Mason in his classroom at Sacred Hearts School, where he is a math and science teacher.
"The juniors and seniors on the team have done a wonderful job of making the young girls feel welcome. They have shown great leadership, and this has led to team bonding and energy. This has been great to see and be a part of."
The senior returnees to the team include Courtney Galarita, Kim Yap, Sierra Lerback, Maile Altier, Cherelle Freitas and Kylie Keale Smith.
The team also includes juniors Addi Johnson, Kaile Stockham, Noemi Granados and Haley Pante; sophomores Haleigh Berko, Geneva Leon and 2013 MIL Player of the Year Lalelei Mataafa (also a two-time wrestling state champion); and freshmen Alicia Wintermeyer, Sydney Wagner and Julia Bianco.
The Lady Lunas have four regular season matches to play, including a crucial contest versus Baldwin, followed by the MIL Tournament and then the state playoffs from April 30 to May 3 on the Big Island at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii.