Rainbow Wahine water polo team will boast international flavor

Jan. 14—There's nothing like a good meal to bridge cultures.

There's nothing like a good meal to bridge cultures.

Having assembled another international roster, University of Hawaii water polo coach Maureen Cole assigned the Rainbow Wahine a culinary task to provide a taste of the myriad countries represented on the roster for a team dinner.

"I gave them a budget at the store and they had a challenge to make six dishes from six different countries, " Cole said. "It came to a pretty complete meal just like our team does throughout the season."

Cole, now in her 12th year leading the program, spent the fall and the first two weeks of the new year blending the talents of a 20-member team featuring players from 10 countries.

The Rainbow Wahine will put their combined talents into the pool for the first time in 2023 today in the Rainbow Invitational at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.

UH opens the weekend by taking on San Jose State at 10 :30 a.m. The Wahine return to the pool to face Loyola Marymount at 6 p.m. They'll also meet Marist at noon on Sunday.

"It's one of the favorite things I like about coaching in Hawaii, " Cole said of mixing players from varying backgrounds. "The girls enjoy learning from each other, and eating different types of food, and talking a different way. Sometimes there are some language barriers initially, but we figure out our Wahine language and hopefully by the end of April we're operating on all cylinders."

Cole has crafted a recipe for success during her tenure and the Rainbow Wahine enter the season as the favorites in the Big West preseason coaches poll released Friday.

UH received five of eight first-place votes and edged UC Irvine (two first-place votes ) for the top spot.

UH is 22-3 in Big West matches since 2017 and has claimed at least a share of the regular season title each of the past four seasons. The Wahine won the Big West tournament championship in 2019 and'21 and held the top seed in last year's tournament at DKAC. But second-seeded UC Irvine pulled out an 11-8 win to end UH's season and deny the Wahine a spot in the National Collegiate Women's Water Polo Championship.

"It definitely didn't end the way they wanted it to, but they put in a lot of good work in the fall and just want to jell together as a team, " Cole said.

"That's all we're focusing on right now, learning each other and figuring out the style of play, because we have different pieces than we did last year. So we're going to play a little bit of a different style and it's going to take a little time, but we're committed to figuring it out and making it work efficiently."

Senior attacker Alba Bonamusa Boix (Spain ) was named to the preseason all-conference team after scoring 36 goals last season. Lucia Gomez de la Puente (Spain ) was a first-team All-American in 2021 and posted 21 goals and 15 assists last season.

Attacker Cila David (Hungary ) will open her UH career against her former team after transferring from San Jose State, where she scored 41 goals last season and earned honorable mention All-America recognition.

Cole noted center Bia Mantellato Dias (Brazil ) as a freshman expected to make an instant impact.

Bridget Layburn (New Zealand ) returns in goal after missing part of last season with a broken thumb.

"She's made huge strides, " Cole said. "She's done a ton of work and she's definitely going to be the backbone of our defense."