Madera Coyotes water polo player Lola Gill will head to West Virginia to play for the Salem University Tigers. She is one of four Coyote water polo players that will play at a four-year college next year.
Unlike some of her teammates who chose to stay close to home, Madera Coyotes water polo player and swimmer Lola Gill wanted to get as far away as she could.
Gill singed a National Letter of Intent to play water polo at Salem University in West Virgina.
“I’ve always wanted to go out of state for college,” she said. “They had contacted me because I am registered in the NCAA. Their coach saw my profile on their website. He told me I looked like a pretty good athlete and would like for me to come visit. As soon as he messaged me, I asked where he was from and he said West Virginia. I said might as well go visit. I saw the school and I liked it.”
Gill made a visit in October so she said she saw the good weather of West Virginia.
“It wasn’t too hot or too cold and it wasn’t humid or snowing,” she said.
Gill also looked at CSU East Bay, Fresno Pacific, Bucknell and Iona.
“I feel like when I was choosing colleges, I wanted to have the best teammates,” she said. “I didn’t want to have any drama. I wanted to have a positive school and setting. I only visited FPU and Salem. At Salem, a lot of the girls are foreigners and are all super kind. It made everything home. They are all far away from home and me, being from California, will be far from home, so we’re all forced to be a family and be close to each other. Compared to FPU where there were cliques and it didn’t feel like family.”
Gill also wants to swim for Salem because she wasn’t able to finish her senior year at Madera.
“I think it will be fun because they travel up and down the East Coast,” she said. “It will be fun to see the states and explore a little more.”
Gill points out to her speed in the pool as her best attribute.
“When I was younger, I did competitive swim so that made me a fast water polo player,” she said. “I’m able to swim up and down the pool really quick. I consider myself a smart player. I’m not the biggest or tallest, but I’m smart with plays and other things. I got to practice with them on my visit. Their coach got to see me in the water and do the drills they were doing. He told me he was impressed with my skills and how I’m able to move in the water.”
“I am absolutely honored to be around such aggression from a female,” said Erik Baymiller, Madera Coyotes girls water polo and swim coach. “It was like poetic aggression. There was a lot of refining the first couple of years. She was so in their face and aggressive. We found a sweet spot in the middle and has exploded in the last year-and-a-half. She is the hardest worker I know. That sport didn’t come easy to her. She missed every shot she took early. It’s been a really long road for her. She’s a grinder. She put in the most time in the pool and had amazing results.”
Gill was a member of the two-time Div. II Central Section championship team and missed out on a chance for a three-peat when the spring sports season was canceled.
“It wasn’t too tough to go for a three-peat,” she said. “We wanted to focus on CMA. I really wanted to go to CMAC and swim. I was really close in the 100 backstroke to beat this girl from Sanger I really wanted to beat.”
In addition, Gill is part of an aquatics senior class that will have four athletes compete at a four-year school next season. Along with Gill, Emily Lopez-Ibarra (Fresno Pacific) and Bailey Hansen (Fresno State) will play water polo and Tara Goertzen will swim at Idaho University.
“It’s so awesome,” Gill said. “I’ve been training with these girls since middle school. Just to picture us all going to four-year colleges makes my heart super happy. I’m really close with Emily. We would talk to each other about colleges. I’m really proud of the both of them. I didn’t doubt for one second they wouldn’t go to a four-year. They are both very talented in the water and with their academics.”
The quartet is also the first wave of the middle school water polo athletes at Madera Unified.
“What really happened with that is they fell in love with the sport and started playing club water polo,” Baymiller said. “Those girls would not have been recruited if they didn’t play club at that age. They showed the other girls this is the path you have to take to play at the next level.”
While her teammates will be close to home or close to family, Gill will be on the other side of the country.
“I will probably get homesick,” she said. “I’m ready to go and venture out. I feel like this will be really good for me. I think it’s awesome to get to travel. The coach was planning on to take us out of the country to train for water polo, which would have been really cool.
“My mom always asks if I really want to go that far. My grandma tells me that I don’t need to leave. I try to tell them it’s going to be really good for me. It’s going to be the same amount of missing of each other.”