Mater Dei, Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Rosary produce elite water polo athletes

By Dan Arritt     2/27/2018

They seem like they’ve experienced everything together, even though they’ve spent most of their water polo careers on opposite sides. 

Brianna Daboub and Haley Wan were Trinity League co-players of the year four years ago. They played for rival schools, but also won gold medals as teammates on U.S. youth national teams. 

They’ve been back on different teams on opposite coasts the past four seasons, but continue to lead in many of the same ways. 

Daboub, who starred for Mater Dei, is a three-year captain for the USC women’s team. 

Wan, a Santa Margarita graduate, occupies the same role for Princeton. 

They earned those titles not just from stellar play, but by displaying leadership abilities that stand out from their teammates. 

Daboub and Wan are scheduled to play one more game against each other. Princeton will take a road trip to Southern California in early spring, one that includes a stop at USC on March 22. 

Princeton made a similar visit to USC last year and Daboub scored two goals and Wan scored all three in the 12-3 victory by the Trojans. 

Wan still has bragging rights dating back to their high school days, however. She led Santa Margarita to back-to-back CIF-SS and Trinity League titles her junior and senior years. 

Wan immediately became a starter at Princeton her freshman season, scoring 34 goals on just 70 shots while leading the team in assists, steals and blocks. She led the team with 58 goals as a sophomore, then notched another team-high 67 goals last season. 

Wan scored five goals through the first four games this season, giving her 164 in her Princeton career through that point. 

This season has been especially challenging for Wan, as longtime Princeton coach Luis Nicolao left in January to take the head coaching position at the Naval Academy. 

Daboub scored her 100th goal at USC in a 6-4 win Feb. 11 against cross-town rival UCLA, helping the Trojans take first in the Triton Invitational at UC San Diego. USC came into the event ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Stanford, and UCLA was No. 4. 

USC coach Jovan Vavic said Daboub has been the perfect role model. 

“What is the most impressive about this team so far is their unity,” Vavic told the Daily Trojan student newspaper after the win against UCLA. “Leadership is the key and our captains are leading in and out of the water.” 

Katie Tijerina, who graduated from Rosary a year after Daboub and Wan, is the leading scorer at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. 

Tijerina also overcame a difficult coaching change. 

She was recruited out of high school by then-Marist head coach Natalie Benson, a former standout athlete at Rosary who went on to star at UCLA and play in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. 

Tijerina scored 47 goals as a freshman and was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. 

Her experience with Benson only lasted a year, however. Benson was hired by Fresno State in June of 2016 as the school’s first coach in program history. The Bulldogs began their inaugural season last month. 

Tijerina’s goals dipped to 20 last season, but she came back with seven goals through the first six games this season. 

The Red Foxes will also take a trip to Southern California in early spring, and are scheduled to play Princeton at the Loyola Marymount Invitational on March 16.