Orange Lutheran senior Sara Naulty may never have tried water polo if it wasn’t for a tantrum she threw as a six year old. When the young Naulty found it completely unacceptable to be sweating while playing soccer, her parents put her in the sport her cousins played – water polo. She joined an introductory splash ball program and immediately loved it.
“I like the physical component of it,” says Naulty. “I also like how it challenges me, both mentally and physically. Mentally, it teaches you perseverance and leadership. It's taught me how to push myself.”
As a left-handed attacker, Naulty is a bit of a rarity in the sport. Serving as a team captain this season, the southpaw has been a key component for the Lancers, helping to lead her teammates to a 22-2 record and the program’s fifth Trinity League title. She also helped OLu win the SoCal Tourney last month and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
“Sara is one of our leaders in and out of the water,” says OLu girls water polo head coach Brenda Villa. “She leads by example, always working hard and leading with kindness. She is a prolific scorer that elevates our game by adding a balanced attack on both sides of our offensive line.”
Both Naulty and her teammates share the same goal – a CIF championship – something the four-year varsity player definitely feels is within reach. The Lancers kick off their run to the title this Thursday when they face Mater Dei in the first round of the CIF-SS Open Division playoffs.
For a sport that is so physically and mentally demanding, life lessons learned from water polo have been many for Naulty.
“Perseverance, definitely,” says the 18-year old. “But also just how to be mentally tough. Your sport is always going to be tough on you. Even in the game, if I miss a goal, there's one thing that I've always been taught – I know that if I'm good at this one thing, I'm going to get it eventually.”
With her unique skill set, Naulty had interest from several college programs. She chose UCI, a place where she feels she will not only be valued as a lefty attacker, but also as a person. She plans to study in one of the health sciences fields, and she is grateful to her parents and her teammates for supporting her in this journey.
“My parents are a huge part in supporting me,” says Naulty. “They are always there for me. No matter what, I can talk to them about anything. And this year, Sofia (Umeda) and Allison (Cohen), they both push me to be my best.”
Whether she’s on the pool deck or on campus, Naulty’s faith is a constant and steadying force for which she is grateful.
“I get nervous during every single game, no matter how long I've been playing,” says Naulty. “It’s just taking a second and praying about it for just a moment. I know God's got me, and I know in the end everything's going to be fine.”