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Newport Harbor High’s Olivia Giolas commits to USC women’s water polo

Newport Harbor girls' water polo center Olivia Giolas has committed to USC.
Newport Harbor girls’ water polo center Olivia Giolas says she chose USC over UCLA and Michigan.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Olivia Giolas saw her first in-person college water polo before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit.

The incoming Newport Harbor High School senior went to the Barbara Kalbus Invitational Tournament at UC Irvine in late February and got to see rivals USC and UCLA do battle. The Trojans won 9-7, and Giolas was more than impressed.

“Everybody was involved, whether they were in the pool, whether they were on the bench, the coaching staff,” Giolas said. “Everybody was unified together … It’s really the place that I want to be.”

Giolas said she has verbally committed to play women’s water polo at USC. Giolas, who plays center for the Sailors, said that she was also considering UCLA and Michigan, but in the end she chose the cardinal and gold.

USC was the No. 1-ranked team in the country when the pandemic forced the season to conclude early. The Trojan women have won five national championships.

“My biggest thing with their team was that they always emphasized that their team was built on hard work and selflessness, and I absolutely adored their philosophy with that,” she said. “You know, they’re a winning program. They aspire to win.”

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Giolas said she plans to major in chemistry. Her family is definitely proud of her. Giolas’ mother, Stacey, said Olivia will become the first college athlete in the family since her great-grandfather, Ray Garrard, played football at Utah State in the late 1940s.

“She’s worked extremely hard to get to this point,” Stacey Giolas said in a text message. “Of course, we just became diehard Trojan fans through and through.”

Giolas, who earned first-team All-Surf League, All-CIF Division 1 and Daily Pilot Dream Team honors as a junior, hopes to bring the Sailors to the No. 1 spot in the CIF Southern Section as a senior. They don’t have far to go after finishing third in Division 1 a season ago. Newport Harbor led in the fourth quarter of the semifinals before eventual champion Laguna Beach rallied for a 9-7 victory.

Newport Harbor expects to bring back more top talent like incoming juniors Taylor Smith, Morgan Netherton and Lily Gess, as well as sophomore goalkeeper Anna Reed.

“I think USC is a great fit for Olivia and is going to challenge her, and that’s something that she strives for, being in places that push her beyond her limits,” Sailors coach Ross Sinclair said. “I’m really happy and proud of her. Last year she was incredible on both sides of the ball, and I thought she developed defensively a lot toward the end of the season. This upcoming season, we’re going to continue to rely on her, and the role that she fulfilled I think is going to get bigger.

“I expect her to have another great season. Luckily she’s the type of player that will hold those standards for herself, so she’s just going to keep pushing. I don’t think she’ll ever be satisfied until she gets exactly what she wants.”

Giolas should get to continue a bit of a rivalry with Laguna Beach at the next level. Breakers incoming seniors Nicole Struss, Emma Lineback and Molly Renner have all committed to UCLA.

“I have mad respect for all of those girls,” Giolas said. “They’re definitely amazing players, and I’m really looking forward to continuing to play against them. Playing against the best helps make me better.”

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