Courtesy: UC Santa Barbara Athletics
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo team has signed eight student-athletes to National Letters of Intent, head coach Serela Kay announced this week.
The group consists of center Imani Clemons (Laguna Beach, Calif/Laguna Beach HS), defender Kenedy Corlett Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS), attacker/defender Melanie Damato (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita HS), utility Cami Mras (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Santa Margarita HS), goalkeeper Casey Coppock (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Mater Dei HS), attacker Emily Ferguson (Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS), utility Annie Kuester (Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS), and attacker Mackenzie Murphy (Orinda, CA/Miramonte HS).
Imani Clemons • Center • Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS
Clemons signs with UCSB after recording 27 goals, six assists, and 15 steals in her junior season powerhouse Laguna Beach to back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles. Her play has been heralded by Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato, who described her as one the best centers in the country in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, despite the fact that she hadn’t played the center position until her freshman year. At club level, she competed for USA Water Polo’s Saddleback Del Toro and was selected to the 2019 ODP Girls Youth National Team.
“As a center, Imani is a dominant force in the paint creating presence and forcing teams into a zone defense. She has great hands and knows how to score. Imani has grown up being a part of a winning culture and has an infectious personality that makes everyone around her better,” said Kay of Clemons.
Kenedy Corlett • Defender • Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS
Corlett joins Clemons in Santa Barbara after having put up 13 goals, 10 assists, and 18 steals for Laguna Beach in her junior season. Corlett and Clemons are joined by Claire Kelly and Evie Laptin as former Breakers on the Gauchos roster in 2020-21. The duo are looking to lead Laguna Beach to its third-straight Division 1 title, an accomplishment that has evaded the program despite its success in the past.
“Playing in the same lineup as Imani, Kenedy also has a knack for success with a handful of championships. She is a defender that has the ability to match up with anyone in the country. Coupling this with her speed and ability to score offensively makes her a lethal asset,” noted Kay.
Melanie Damato •Attacker/Defender • Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita HS
Damato helped Santa Margarita earn back-to-back league championships over the past two years and win the CIF title in 2019. Like Clemons, she also competed for Saddleback Del Toro and was selected to the 2019 ODP Girls Youth National Team.
On Damato’s signing, Kay said, “Mel has a high game IQ and good feel for the game with her extensive water polo experience. She not only has a defensive mindset but also reads well offensively adding glue to the front court. Mel has competed with and against the best in our sport whose competitive spirit makes her a player who will not back down.”
Cami Mras • Utility • Corona Del Mar, Calif./Santa Margarita HS
Mras joins Damato as current Eagles that will be future Gauchos in 2021. Mras was selected to the ODP Girl’s Cadet National Team in 2018 while playing for Regency Water Polo Club.
“Cami is versatile, being able to play anywhere in the pool. Cami can match up as a defender and take that player to the paint on the offensive end. Her versatility makes her invaluable depending on the lineup and opponent,” said Kay.
Casey Coppock • Goalkeeper • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Mater Dei HS
Coppock signs from Mater Dei HS and SoCal Water Polo Club after having participated in several high-level experiences throughout her career. She was selected as a National Junior Olympics All-American in 2017 and earned a spot on the Cadet National Team that year as well. Coppock also competed at the USA Water Polo National Championships the past two years with the SoPac zone team. In addition, the 5-8 netminder has earned several scholar athlete honors throughout her time at Mater Dei.
“Casey is athletic, smart, and has quick hands. She has seen some of the strongest shooters in the sport through her high school, club, and ODP water polo experiences. She will no doubt continue the program towards high performance,” remarked Kay.
Emily Ferguson • Attacker • Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS
Ferguson helped Carlsbad achieve a CIF Open Division title in 2018 and runner-up finishes in the competition in 2019 and 2020. Following the conclusion of this past season, Ferguson was named to the All-Avocado West League Women’s Water Polo Second Team and the USA Water Polo Academic All-America list.
Kay said of Ferguson, “Emily is gritty and changes the tempo of any game she competes in. Her counter-attack mindset will create momentum in the front court and keep the opponents on their heels. Anyone who has to match up against her will have their hands full.”
Annie Kuester • Utility • Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS
Kuester helped San Ramon Valley qualify for the CIF North Coast Section Girls Water Polo Championships in 2019. For her efforts, she was an All-East Bay Athletic League selection in 2018 (Second Team) and 2019 (First Team).
“Annie is a multi-sport athlete with a background playing lacrosse, in addition to, water polo. Her athleticism and being a student of sport makes her ceiling extremely high. She is a strong player that will create chaos for those who match up against her,” said Kay.
Mackenzie Murphy • Attacker •Orinda, CA/Miramonte HS
With Murphy, Miramonte achieved a 20-6 overall record in the 2019 season, making it to the second round of the CIF tournament after finishing as runners-up in the NCS final. Murphy’s achievements include earning Heaston Invitational Tournament MVP Honors with Lamorinda Water Polo Club 16U Girls Gold in 2018.
“Mack has lights out speed and comes from a family of competitive athletes. She has grown up surrounded by sports with the mindset to excel at the highest level. Mack is also stellar in the classroom making her the type of well-rounded student athlete we want as a part of our team culture,” said Kay of Murphy.
The group makes up the program’s largest recruiting class since 2017, in which Kay added 10 student-athletes to the program.
“This class fills a huge role in the paint both offensively and defensively, along with adding speed and creating a high tempo in the attack. Their presence combined with a habit of winning will catapult our program into continuing its championship culture. I look forward to having them join our Gaucho family for the 2022 Season. Exciting times are ahead!”