UCSB women’s water polo adds 11 prep recruits

The UCSB women’s water polo program has signed 11 prep standouts to National Letters of Intent it was announced this week by head coach Cathy Neushul.

Mackenzie Baldridge (Laguna Beach HS/Laguna Beach, Calif.), Carly Christian (Newport Harbor HS/Newport, Calif.), Brea Cook (Glendora HS/Glendora, Calif.), Casey Pond (San Ramon Valley HS/Danville, Calif.), Nikki Quinn (Los Alamitos HS/Los Alamitos, Calif.), Delaney Riley (El Toro HS/Lake Forest, Calif.), Taylor Shore (Santiago HS/Corona, Calif.), Jenna Solberg (Chadwick HS/Torrance, Calif.), Brenna Thomas (Foothill HS/Orange, Calif.), Sophie Trabucco (Santa Barbara HS/Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Tess Wardle (Ventura HS/Ventura, Calif.) will make up the incoming 2013-14 women’s water polo class.

“The 2012-2013 incoming recruit class is the most comprehensive, experienced and accomplished group of young women to enter UCSB in the history of the program,” Neushul said. “These women are not only outstanding athletes, hailing from some of the most respected clubs in the nation, but are also upstanding scholars and leaders in their respective prep programs. This is going to be an exciting time to play water polo at UCSB.”

Mackenzie Baldridge is a left-handed attacker who hails from Laguna Beach High School and also plays with SET Water Polo Club. She helped Laguna Beach to the 2012 CIF Southern Section Division I Semifinals and garnered 2012 All-Orange Coast League First Team honors.

“Mackee is a true student of the game, heralding from the powerhouse Laguna Beach High School and SET water polo programs,” Neushul said. “She has played for a bright up-and-coming coach, Ethan Damato, which reflects in every aspect of her play. Mackee is a quick-thinking left-handed attacker, which is a valuable commodity in water polo. She, no doubt, will have a very large presence on our future teams.”

Carly Christian is an attacker who competes with Newport Harbor High School and the Newport Water Polo Foundation. She is a two-time USA Water Polo Honorable Mention All-American and is a High School All-American Second Team honoree. She helped lead Newport Harbor to the 2012 CIF Southern Section Division I Championship and was named to the All-CIF Division I First Team and the All-Sunset League First Team. She is also the younger sister of UCSB men’s water polo senior goalkeeper, Myles Christian.

“Carly follows her brother Myles to UCSB,” Neushul said. “She has spent her entire water polo career at Newport Aquatics under the tutelage of one water polo’s most knowledgeable and revered coaches, Bill Barnett. Any player from the Newport Harbor High School girls program enters the college arena with the skills to contribute from the get go. Carly is no exception. She is a fearless, lightning fast attacker who will make an immediate impact on our program.”

Brea Cook is an attacker that attends Glendora High School and also competes for Foothill Water Polo Club. She is a three-time All-Baseline League honoree and garnered 2012 All-CIF Southern Section Division IV Second Team accolades. Also a standout swimmer, she helped Glendora HS to the 2011 CIF Division II Swim Championship and is a three-time All-Baseline League swimmer.

“Brea brings experience and speed to UCSB,” Neushul said. “With her club experience in the highly competitive Inland Empire, Brea has what it takes to play at the next level and will fit well into our fast-paced style of water polo.”

Casey Pond is a defender that attends San Ramon Valley High School and also competes for 608 Drivers Water Polo Club. She is both an NISCA Honorable Mention All-American and a USA Water Polo Honorable Mention All-American. Pond has led her team to three NCS Championship games and two titles. She has twice garnered All-East Bay Athletic League First Team honors and San Ramon Valley Defensive MVP accolades. Pond is also a member of the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program Pacific Zone Team.

“Casey has many accolades coming fresh off her prep career,” Neushul said. “She has both high level club experience and knows how to win after leading her high school team the last three years into the NCS Championship games. Casey is levelheaded and controlled in pressure situations. Those are invaluable traits which lead to championships.”

Nikki Quinn is a goalkeeper who hails from Los Alamitos High School and plays with SOCAL Water Polo Club. She is a 2012 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics All-American Second Team honoree. With SOCAL, she won the 2012 USCC 16u Championship, the 2012 Cal Cup 16u State Championship and won the bronze medal at the 2012 Junior Olympics. She is an All-Sunset League Second Team honoree and helped Los Alamitos to the 2011 Sunset League title.

“With the graduation of Ruth Milne, the most decorated goalie in UCSB history, we have a very large hole to fill,” Neushul said. “Nikki comes to us with the size, athleticism and championship experience needed to excel at the college level.”

Delaney Riley is an attacker that attends El Toro High School and plays for SET Water Polo Club. She has been a member of the USA Water Polo SOPAC Zone Team. She enters her senior season as the 10th leading scorer in El Toro history and has garnered both All-South Coast League First Team and All-CIF Southern Section Division II Third Team honors.

“Delaney is another accomplished player from the breeding ground of water polo: Orange County,” Neushul said. “Delaney has a powerful outside shot along with a high-game IQ that comes from playing years and years in a highly competitive environment. This makes for a very dangerous player and one you most definitely want on your side”

Taylor Shore plays utility at Santiago High School and for Xtreme Water Polo Club. She has garnered USA Water Polo All-American, All-CIF Southern Section Division II Second Team and All-Big 8 League First Team honors. She holds school records in single season assists (69) and assists in a single game (7). Shore helped Santiago HS to the 2012 CIF Southern Section Division II Championship and has competed in the CIF Swim Championships the past three seasons.

“Taylor comes to UCSB with loads of championship experience while playing for both Santiago High School and Xtreme Water Polo Club,” Neushul said. “Taylor’s physical tools are outstanding, and her ability to rise to the occasion in crunch time and player her best in critical, championship-caliber games, is the mark of a proven winner and someone with a great water polo pedigree. I have no doubt that Taylor will make an immediate impact on our program.”

Jenna Solberg plays utility for Chadwick High School and Huntington Beach Water Polo Club. She helped Huntington Beach to a silver medal at the 2012 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics and garnered Second Team All-American honors. She has twice garnered All-CIF Division VI honors with Chadwick HS.

“Jenna comes from yet another winning Orange County program in the Huntington Beach Water Polo Club,” Neushul said. “She, too, has championship experience, after playing in the National Championship 18U final last season. Jenna has a strong presence on the perimeter and is a threat to score with virtually any defensive mistake. She has a calm demeanor, which is highly deceptive, as she is a deadly scorer.”

Brenna Thomas is an attacker that attends Foothill High School and also plays for Huntington Beach Water Polo Club. She garnered All-American Second Team honors at the 2012 Junior Olympics and has also earned All-CIF Southern Section Third Team and All-Century League Second Team accolades. She helped lead Foothill to the 2012 CIF Semifinals and the 2011 CIF Championship game. Thomas has also earned High School All-American honors in the 400 freestyle relay.

“Brenna is the ultimate all-around player and a threat at both the offensive and defensive ends of the pool,” Neushul said. “Her speed and aggressive nature make Brenna virtually impossible to stop. Her keen knowledge of the game, along with an impeccable work ethic, showcases every thing she does. She’s competed and won in the Division I CIF Southern Section, which is the most high-charged arena in water polo. Brenna flat out has what it takes to lead her team to championships.”

Sophie Trabucco is a defender and local product that plays for Santa Barbara High School and Santa Barbara Water Polo Club. She has won four-consecutive gold medals at the US Club Water Polo Championships and was the named the Most Valuable Player at the 2012 tournament. Trabucco has twice won gold at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics and she has twice garnered USA Water Polo All-American honors. In 2012, she garnered All-Channel League First Team accolades and All-CIF Southern Section Division I Third Team honors. Additionally, she has been a finalist at the CIF Southern Section Swim Championships in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Her twin sister, Madeline, is a goalkeeper and has signed with Cal.

“Sophie is yet another player who comes from a storied water polo background,” Neushul said. “Practicing and competing day in and day out with the Santa Barbara Water Polo Club and for Santa Barbara High School’s legendary coach Mark Walsh, Sophie knows how to win. She does all the unsung, little things that lead to victory. She is a fierce competitor and one of the premier one-on-one defenders in the game. For Sophie to stay local and play for UCSB is just huge for our program.”

Tess Wardle is a utility player that competes for Ventura High School and Santa Barbara Water Polo Club. Along with Trabucco, she won consecutive US Club Championships and the 2011 Junior Olympics. At Ventura HS, she has garnered three All-Channel League honors and twice earned All-Ventura County First Team accolades.

“Tess in another local product from Santa Barbara Water Polo Club and Ventura High School,” Neushul said. “She is big and fast, and aggressive. Tess’s presence at two-meters, along with her speed and endurance, lead to big minutes in competitive games. Most importantly, Tess’s eternal positive attitude raises the level of play of everyone in the water. In Tess Wardle, UCSB gains an outstanding athlete both in and out of the pool.”

The 2013 women’s water polo season is scheduled to kick-off in mid-January.