Distinguished SBAC alums advise future polo stars

Youth water polo players with the Santa Barbara Aquatics Club spent time with former club players (top row) who are now playing at NCAA Division 1 college programs.

Youth water polo players with the Santa Barbara Aquatics Club spent time with former club players (top row) who are now playing at NCAA Division 1 college programs. (Peter Neushul photo)

Santa Barbara Aquatic Club’s youth girls water polo teams welcomed a group of distinguished alumni for a winter clinic at Dos Pueblos High School’s Elings Pool.

Jade Fitzgerald (UCSB), Charlotte Hendrix (Harvard), Sami Hill (UCLA), Kodi Hill (UCLA), Laurel Kistler (UCSD), Kiley Neushul (Stanford), Amanda Redfern (Indiana), and Tiera Schroeder (Cal) joined the 12-Under and 14-Under girls teams to talk about playing college water polo at some of the nation’s finest universities.

Kiley Neushul, winner of the 2012 Peter J. Cutino Award, the honor for the top college player in the country, told the young players that “winning Junior Olympic and high school championships with my best friends and teammates who I grew up with is the most exciting water polo I’ve ever played.”

Neushul and Tiera Schroeder led Dos Pueblos to four straight CIF water polo titles.

“The teams here in Santa Barbara are the best,” Neushul said. “Winning an NCAA Championship is great but traveling with 12U, 14U, 16U, and 18U SBAC teams was the best experience ever.”

Sami Hill, who played on three title teams at DP, said her time as an SBAC youth player helped develop her into one of the best goalkeepers in the United States.

“Your teamwork and coaching here will set a standard that you can carry with confidence to the next level,” she told the young players.

Schroeder urged the girls to “work hard and stay with it even through the rough times. The coaches may be riding you but they will teach you all you need to know and you’ll have a blast playing in the tournaments ahead. I look back and my years with the club were the most fun times — ever.”

Kistler remembered working her way through the ranks while playing for the SBAC.

“I played from the bench before eventually finding a spot on the A team,” she said. “The process was hard but rewarding in the end and is helping me on my new team at UCSD.”

Hendrix recalled beating the southland’s elite clubs over and over because “we stayed together and played as a team.”

Redfern urged the girls to “work hard and you can go to any school you want.”

This generation of SBAC collegians won numerous Junior Olympic and National Club Championships before being recruited to play on NCAA Division I teams. In 2012, Sami Hill competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, while Neushul helped lead Stanford to the 2012 NCAA Championship.

In the Fall of 2012, SBAC’s 14U girls won the club’s first ever National Turbo Cup Championship, a title that eluded some of the finest women’s water polo players in the country.

The future looks bright for what is shaping up to be the next generation of talented, young Santa Barbara water polo players.