he562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of boys’ water polo is sponsored by Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
Usually any results from offseason competitions are ignored when high school teams come back for their regular seasons, but it’s a little different for Wilson girls’ water polo this year.
Over the summer, the core group of Bruins who will try to win a fifth consecutive Moore League championship competed together at the Junior Olympics as part of the Long Beach Aquatics Federation U18 team. That team showed incredible growth together and finished in the Top 10 in their age group.
“We’re really excited for this season,” Wilson coach Barry O’Dea said. “Right now it’s all about constant growth and consistency.”
Wilson only lost one starter after last season, but O’Dea said that new goalkeeper Charlotte Echlin has stepped up to fill that spot, and her confidence has skyrocketed after getting recruited by Long Beach State after a solid showcase performance.
“She is the backbone of everything we do on defense,” O’Dea said of Echlin. “We’re able to do some really special things on defense because Charlotte covers a lot of the cage. The confidence the girls have in Charlotte right now is really high. It makes it easy as a coach to set things up around that because I can have them get outside their comfort zone because they have so much confidence that Charlotte is going to back them up if they make any mistakes.”
Echlin isn’t the only Bruin headed to play at the next level with Maya O’Dea (Harvard), Zoe Grover (UC San Diego) and Vivian Bailey (UC Irvine) back in the starting lineup for their senior years. They will be joined by fellow returners Katherine O’Dea, Hannah Szeszulski and Olivia Garcia.
Gabrielle Gillott is also a returning starter who has been a great defender and is getting much better on offense with a strong shot. She and Szeszulski scored some big goals from the outside in the offseason, and they did that without the help of the key centers who have been out with injury.
Emily Cribari and Jermonie Billingsly are both coming off injury to play the 2-meter for Wilson. Billingsly and Katherine O’Dea spent the summer in Greece for the World Championships.
“This group is playing together nonstop for awhile to build up for this one particular season,” coach O’Dea said. “We’re really fast, so we’re playing fast. We’re also smart and have good center play. This team reminds me of some other teams I’ve had in the past that made deep playoff runs.”
O’Dea also said he really likes his schedule with games against Millikan and Foothill in the last week of the season as playoff tuneups. Wilson hopes to be in the Top 8 of the CIF Southern Section to get into the Open Division.
Wilson has won 15 of the last 16 league titles, and won its first ever CIF championship in 2018.