Wilkey has right stuff

USA Water Polo Junior Olympics

Newport Harbor graduate steps up in crunch time, helping Huntington Beach Water Polo Club 18s win platinum division at USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.

August 08, 2011|By Matt Szabo,
(Photo courtesy…)

IRVINE — Talking to Sarah Wilkey last summer at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, she had a sort of quiet confidence.

Wilkey was about to start her senior year. She was stepping into the starting goalie role for the Newport Harbor High varsity girls' water polo team, an especially important position for the Sailors and their renowned press defense.

"I had to jump into it really quickly," Wilkey said at the time. "I really don't have that much experience, so it's been kind of hard to adjust, but I think we're doing a good job all together."

Wilkey has worked hard to become a known quantity. Just a year later, all eyes were on her on Sunday evening at a near-capacity Woollett Aquatics Center. She was the starting goalie for Huntington Beach Water Polo Club in the championship match of the girls' 18-and-under platinum division at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.


Just "a good job" probably wasn't going to get it done this time. Wilkey and her teammates had Kiley Neushul firing shots at them. They needed to play outstanding to beat Santa Barbara Water Polo Club.

Wilkey turned 18 last week. She showed everyone in attendance her game is all grown up, too.

She had 11 saves and two steals as second-seeded Huntington Beach "Blue" stunned top-seeded Santa Barbara "A," 6-5, to capture gold.

The UCLA-bound Wilkey has been known for making lists of goals to achieve. This one had to be way up there on the list. Santa Barbara featured several Dos Pueblos High players, including recent graduate Neushul, who have helped the Chargers win the last three CIF Southern Section Division I titles and 67 straight games.

"I'm ecstatic," Wilkey said. "I've been wanting to win this ever since I started water polo."

It was a huge achievement for Wilkey and Huntington Beach, which went a perfect 7-0 in the tournament. She started off the tournament sharing time in goal with La Habra graduate Morgan Klingfus, but with Klingfus nursing a hip injury Wilkey had the opportunity to step up.

She usually makes the most of those.

"She's an absolute superstar," said Huntington Beach Coach Natalie Benson, the former UCLA standout and two-time Olympian. "We are privileged to have her on our team. She fits in so well with us. This is her first year with us here, because with the Newport system they usually play through with the high school team. As seniors, they move on, so they can prepare their incoming classes for the next year.

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