Hannah Bennett, daughter of Harieta and John Bennett, has
been voted the BIIF Player of the Year in water polo. Hannah moved to
the big island of Hawai'i from Fiji three years ago to stay with her
older sister, Kimberly, who played water polo for the University of Hawai'i
prior to her graduation. Kimberly coaches the water polo team from a
rival high school.
Bennett played 2-meter defense, often guarding the other
team's top player, scored occasionally on offense, but more importantly
became the team's glue—not only for her solid play, but also her direction
"She worked really hard to improve her game from
the previous year,"Hilo coach Ron Koehler said. "She was our go-to
player ande a quarterback of the team all year. She was a leader in
the field, like a coach in the water.
"She was pretty consisten in scoring. She threw the ball
more accurately with greater power and more importantly with greater
confidence. It doesn't matter how hard you threow if you're throwing
it right at the goalie.
"We didn't have a big superstar on the team. We needed
someone to distribute the ball and get everyone involved. She set the
tone for the whole team. We needed someone to control the action.
Then there's her size. Bennett is 5-feet-3 and faced
opponents much bigger on defense.
"Two-meter defense is the most difficult position because
you're trying to stop the other team's most powerful player close to
the goal," Koehler said.
Stamina and the ability to swim fast and pester an offensive
player like a pilot fish are good qualities to have. Bennett got better
at all three, and also added toughness.
It's about being strong," she said. "I'm pretty small,
but I think I'm pretty strong and it's about being able to swim fast.
I did track and field, and swam. It helped a lot.
"Being in the water, it's all about swimming faster with
technique. It definitely made me faster and got me into shape.
"I learned a lot about the game, but mostly we had a
great team and it was about working together. We had a lot of seniors
and worked hard. We really wanted to win the BIIF championship."
The [Hilo High] Vikings did. They beat Kamehameha-Hawaii
5-4 for the title. Then Bennett swam away with satisfaction.
"It was the most memorable season of my water polo career,"
she said. "We exceeded all my expectations and goals."
Hannah graduated from Hilo High on 5 June with Cum Laude
honors. She plans to play water polo at Golden West College in Huntington
Beach, California where she will major in marine science. She aspires
to become a marine biologist.
Hannah's popularity goes well beyond her contributions
to her high school water polo team. Last month she was named May Day
Queen at the high school's May Day celebration.