Umansky a natural for Estancia

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

The senior started playing water polo as a sophomore and quickly learned. Now she is a big-time scoring threat every game.

December 20, 2012|By Steve Virgen
  • Estancia High girls' water polo player Ilene Umansky is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.
Estancia High girls' water polo player Ilene Umansky… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

This game — the one in the water with the yellow ball and players swimming back and forth trying to put that ball into a net — is fun for Ilene Umansky.

It's fun to score and it's fun to learn about water polo for Umansky.

Two years ago, the Estancia High senior saw a water polo ball up close for the first time when she went out to play for the girls' team. She quickly picked up the game even though she didn't swim properly.

Instead of the traditional freestyle stroke, she used somewhat of a breaststroke or even dog paddle when she first played water polo as a sophomore. But she always seemed to have a knack to score.

She scored a team-high 82 goals and earned first-team All-Orange Coast League honors in her sophomore year when she led the Eagles to their first CIF playoff berth in five years. Last year, she put in 119 goals, an Estancia single-season record that was No. 4 in Orange County for the 2011-12 season. That put her on the Daily Pilot Dream Team with more first-team all-league recognition.


This year, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has scored 64 goals through 12 games, which leads the county. She is averaging just under six goals a game, one more goal-per-game than last year.

In the pool at Estancia, Umansky is known as a natural.

She has led the Eagles to an 8-4 record. In each game, she knows her role.

"At times I feel pressure," Umansky said. "During the games, I force myself to relax and remember why I'm playing. I'm not playing to stress myself out. I'm playing to have fun. Of course we want to win but in the end it comes to how much fun I'm having."

If Umansky sounds like a familiar name when it comes to recent Estancia water polo that's because her older brother, Charlie, also played for the Eagles.

But he wasn't the only reason, Umansky wanted to play the game too.

Umansky had always wanted to play basketball as a winter sport at Estancia, but she suffered a broken right ankle while competing for the volleyball team as a freshman.

She fractured three bones and tore some ligaments in the ankle, she said. Later, she believed basketball would be too violent on her ankle. Girls' water polo coach Jennifer Broderick, also one of Umansky's teachers during her sophomore year, encouraged Umansky to play water polo.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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