Playing the hole set position in water polo is like posting up in basketball: It requires strength, stamina and a quick shooting stroke.
Gabby Wiltse capably fills that need for the Peninsula Seahawks. Last spring, she led the team in regular-season scoring as the Seahawks won the South Sound wild-card tournament and finished eighth at the state tourney.
With new coach Chelsea Laning taking over this season, Wiltse, a junior, will be relied on heavily for her leadership and end-to-end speed.
As the Seahawks prepared for a match with Stadium last week, Wiltse took a few moments away from the water to talk about herself and the sport she’s helping to grow in Washington:
The Peninsula Gateway: What are your feelings about the start of the 2013 season?
Gabby Wiltse: We have a new coach, which everyone on the team is super excited about. We’ve got a fresh look, fresh ideas, fresh plays, and I think that’s what this team needs.
We’ve got so many new people coming in this year, which is going to be such a great asset for water polo in general, and for this school, because water polo is not that big of a sport here.
PG: Why do you think the turnout for water polo has been small at Peninsula?
GW: No one is really aware of this sport. It’s not really a big sport up in the Northwest, compared to down in California. Compared to Gig Harbor High, which has one of the biggest teams, that makes it a little easier for them, where we don’t have that opportunity. It’s a hard sport, so anyone that is willing to come out and play is great.
PG: How did you get started playing water polo?
GW: I’ve been a swimmer since I was 5. When I came to Peninsula, I did swim team. One of the girls, she was a senior that year and she was like, ‘Hey, you’d be pretty good at water polo. You should try out.’ And my dad had always told me I should try water polo. So I’m like, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll try it, and if worse comes to worse, I’ll quit.’
I didn’t really take it that seriously, but, right off the bat, I was the fastest girl on the team. From there, I already had an advantage for being good at the sport.
PG: What are the major adjustments you have to make to turn a swimming background into a successful water polo career?
GW: It’s the perfect sport for someone that has attention deficit disorder, because there’s so many things going on at once. Especially for me, I don’t like looking at the bottom of the pool. I like to have to use my brain, and with water polo, you definitely have to use your brain. Basically, you’re not doing the same thing every time.
PG: Your new coach, Chelsea Laning, was a standout collegiate player at Cal State-Monterey Bay. What has she brought to the team with her knowledge of the game?
GW: I think it’s more of a California style, which is perfect for getting more awareness about what the sport is up here. Pacific Northwest play and California play are so different. Trying to get that California play up here is just fantastic, and I think Chelsea is just adding to that.
PG: What do you like to do when you’re not playing water polo?
GW: That’s a hard question, because I’m usually playing water polo. I love to have physical activity. I love water skiing, snow skiing, and I really love traveling. My dad is a pilot with Horizon Air, so that makes it a little easier.
PG: Do you have any favorite music or movies?
GW: I really like alternative music. Young the Giant, Foster the People, Mumford and Sons are some of my favorite bands.
I like so many movies. I love “Zoolander.” Basically any good comedy with Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, anyone that has ever been on “Saturday Night Live,” I love.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.