GABBY BEUTEL: Inspiration leads to most valuable player

To her, water polo is more than just a sport. It’s tough, it’s violent. But she loves it. Her first time joining water polo was sophomore year. Now a senior, Gabby Beutel has put in tremendous work in the pool and is the most valuable player on her team. She feels good about playing her favorite sport because it motivates her to improve on her swimming and ball handling skills.

“It’s a very violent sport under the water,” said Beutel. She recalls a time when somebody hurt her under the water and it left her a scar on her arm.

Beutel’s water polo career began the summer of her sophomore year when she decided to join the Big Valley Water Polo team. Since her family has a background of water polo, she has become adept to this sport. That summer she would practice with her team at St. Mary’s High School.

She met and bonded with players while traveling around California to compete against other leagues. She mentioned that practicing with this league really helped before joining the school team because she learned the basics and became more comfortable.

The coach on the St. Mary’s team Dragan Bakic, native of Split, Croatia inspired Beutel because the way he coached. “ I like him because he’s (just so) aggressive and persuasive,” she said.

Beutel adds,“He knows a lot about water polo because he played in his country.” His water polo knowledge is also shown from his experience playing at the University of the Pacific.

Having a chance to learn from a strong team at Big Valley along from the coach has helped her progress in this sport. There are the pros and cons of every sport. She adds that it’s challenging to play as set, the player who’s in the middle of the pool defending.

“The middle of the pool is where 80 percent of the offense shoots the ball,” she said. However, she recalls a time where she scored seven goals against St. Mary’s High last year.

“At the time I played,” Beutel said. “I knew most of the girls from St. Mary’s because I played with them on the travel team.”

She felt the adrenaline rush speeding through her body as she scored those seven goals. Even though they lost the game against St. Mary’s she still remembers having a great time in the water. “I maintained a positive attitude and I was aggressive,” she said.

She hopes to pursue this sport in college to keep the culture of water polo in her family. Beutel looks up to Missy Franklin, an American competition swimmer and four-time Olympic gold medalist.

“She’s such a great swimmer and (she) succeeded at a (very) young age,” said Beutel.