Mater Dei Girls Water Polo team captain helped lead team to CIF championship

By Jenelyn Russo     6/1/2018

 Finding one’s passion takes most people years of self-discovery. But for Grace Thawley, an invite from a friend to attend a water polo practice as a 10-year-old was all it took to reveal an instant love for the sport.  

“I had gone to that practice not knowing anything about water polo, and came home thinking that was the most fun I’d ever had,” says Thawley. “I haven’t stopped since.” 



OC Catholic first spoke with Thawley three years ago as she was getting her feet wet as a varsity water polo player for Mater Dei High School. Now as she graduates, the 1st Team All-County and All CIF-SS center reflects back on a time that has changed her for the better. 

“Mater Dei is the most special community I’ve ever been introduced to,” says Thawley. “Mater Dei has transformed me as a player and as a religious student athlete. It’s just been an incredible experience.” 

As a long time captain of the team, Thawley has always felt a responsibility to provide her fellow Monarchs with a sense of safety and confidence. 

“I’m honored to have such teammates that already have an incredible work ethic and incredible dedication,” says Thawley. “So I feel I’m spoiled in that I have teammates who already know what to do.” 

Having helped her team secure Trinity League championships in 2017 and 2018 as well as the 2018 CIF Division 1 SoCal championship, Thawley has left a permanent mark on the program. 

“Grace is a true leader and competitor,” says Mater Dei Director of Athletics, Tia Meza. “She is able to see the big picture and help push her teammates to a shared common goal.” 

The 18-year old attributes much of her success in the pool to former Mater Dei girls water polo coach and aquatics director, Chris Segesman, who retired earlier this year.  

“He taught me to work hard in everything I do…to strive for the impossible and make it possible,” says Thawley. “That’s pushed me to be critical in a healthy way of myself, both as a student and as an athlete. I always have to push myself to do better, and it’s taken me far.” 

The Santa Ana resident comes away from her years as a Monarch with a better understanding of what it takes to have a strong work ethic, from learning time management to capturing opportunities she never could have imagined. 

One of those opportunities will take Thawley on a new path in her water polo career this fall at Harvard University, where she is excited about expanding her academic interests and continuing to grow in her faith. 

“We’re always giving thanks to God for these incredible abilities that we have and for the opportunity to display and to work on ourselves as athletes, students and disciples of the Lord,” says Thawley. “We put God and his strength in everything we do.”