Hawaii water polo: Rainbow Wahine open season ranked No. 6

Hawaii water polo coach Maureen Cole, seen here handing her team the 2015 Big West championship trophy, opens her ninth season with her team ranked No. 6. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Jamm Aquino

The Hawaii water polo team opens the 2020 season this weekend with a No. 6 ranking in the country.

However, based on the CWPA poll released Wednesday, someone else — No. 5 UC Irvine — is narrowly favored to win the Big West this year.

Defending BWC champion Hawaii, which made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015 last spring, opens the season with the four-team Rainbow Invite this weekend. It starts with No. 12 Loyola Marymount at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

How much success will the Rainbow Wahine carry over from an 18-6 year? That’s an open question given the loss of several difference-makers.

UH no longer has All-American Irene Gonzalez (60 goals, 86 points) to graduation, plus a team leader in Femke Aan (30 goals, 56 points). Second- and third-leading scorers Maxine Schaap (72 points) and Elise Lemay-Lavoie (60 points) left early.

The top returning scorers for the Wahine are a pair of Spaniards, sophomore Alba Bonamusa Boix (27 goals) and junior Carmen Baringo (26).

UH also returns its two goalkeepers, sophomore Bridget Layburn and junior Molly DiLalla.