'Obie' steps up for Sailors

Before her girls' water polo games, Kailyn Obenauer finds herself on the Newport Bay with her father, David.

Father and daughter have a tradition of enjoying a pre-game "good luck" meal at the Balboa Bay Club.

When it comes to the Battle of the Bay, though, the younger Obenauer definitely creates her own luck.

The Newport Harbor High senior did it again Feb. 4 in an Irvine Southern California Championships quarterfinal. The Sailors were playing rival Corona del Mar for the third time of the season, and they were without their top scorer Maddy McLaren.

Obenauer did what a captain might be expected to do — she stepped up. Big-time.

The center scored a game-high three goals. In the fourth quarter, with fellow seniors Catherine Carpenter and Mary Rose Wight in foul trouble, Obenauer also guarded set. It worked out, as the Sailors won, 7-4, to advance to the semifinals.

And, after the Sailors finished third in the tournament, Obenauer was named to the all-tournament team. The team's other senior starter, goalie Sarah Wilkey, told Obenauer the good news late Saturday night after Newport Harbor's winter formal.

"I was like, 'Oh, I had no idea,' " said Obenauer, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "I didn't even know you could get that. But it'll definitely help me out, little things like that, especially trying to get into college."

She definitely wants to play water polo in college; her current top choice is Loyola Marymount. Right now she's talking to coaches in advance of the next signing period, which begins in mid-April.

The school at which Obenauer ends up will get a very dedicated water polo player. Obenauer has to be just that as a 5-foot-8 center trying to go against girls who are often bigger.

Bigger, but not often stronger.

"She's very strong," Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett said. "She's the epitome of work ethic in the weight room and her shooting has improved incredibly."

In her second year as a varsity starter, she's second on the team with 37 goals scored. Obenauer credits the leadership of last year's senior studs, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Kate Klippert.

Obenauer was a secondary center to Gilchrist on that team, usually just posting up. It was a role she took seriously on a team that advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I title game. Now, she's a starting center for another title contender, although the Sailors also have emerging sophomore Elissia Schilling at two meters.

"Every day in practice last year I was under stress," Obenauer said. "Not stress, but under pressure to try to get better. So when I came into this year, it was just normal. The intensity level was high last year, so this year, I benefitted from it so much. Kaleigh and Kate basically taught me everything I need to know for this year."

Obenauer, better known within the team as "Obie," doesn't often play set defense in games like she did in that CdM game. Still, she's fourth on the team in steals. She's also turning into a deadly shooter from the "four" spot when the Sailors have a six-on-five opportunity.

Not bad for a self-described late bloomer who only started playing water polo in the sixth grade because her best friends Wilkey and Wight convinced her to try the sport. She's one of the few aquatics people in her family, but it's definitely an athletic one.

David played baseball and football. Her mother, Kalee Macfarland, played beach volleyball. Her older brother, Chase, was a standout nose guard for the Sailors football team and has gone on to play at Long Beach City College.

It's a strong support system for Kailyn, even as her parents divorced when she was a year old. She lives with her mother and stepfather in Newport Beach, and her father lives in Long Beach.

"I come back and forth," she said. "My mom's always there during the week, and my dad's always there for my games. They're very supportive of everything. It'd be difficult if they didn't get along, but they do get along great."

With the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs beginning next week, Obenauer counts down the days until the season is over. Literally, because in her bedroom at home she keeps a team calendar, crossing off each game after it's played. She said she plans to compete in swim season in the spring, but she knows it's not the same as her No. 1 sport of water polo.

Obenauer is not expected to be one of the fastest swimmers in a water polo game. But there was that one counterattack goal in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, also against CdM. The mention of it brings a smile to her face.

"There's the bigger girls on the team, like Elissia, Catherine, me, Mary Rose," Obenauer said. "Whenever we watch film, Coach B always points it out [when we counter]. He goes, 'Now watch this right here. This proves that you don't need to be that fast of a swimmer to counter.' "

Obenauer said one of the girls who does lead the counter, junior Presley Pender, is like a little sister to her. Pender and her brothers also find the thought of Obenauer leading the counter funny.

"They just joke around," Obenauer said. "You know that song, 'Teach Me How to Dougie?' Well they go, 'Obie, teach me how to counter.' "

Obenauer doesn't have to teach anyone how to Dougie to prove her worth to the Sailors.

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Kailyn Obenauer

Born: March 28, 1993

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-8

Sport: Water polo

Coach: Bill Barnett

Favorite food: French toast casserole

Favorite movie: "Something's Gotta Give"

Favorite athletic moment: Beating rival Corona del Mar three times in a row this year.

Week in review: Obenauer was named to the all-tournament team at the Irvine Southern California Championships after helping the Sailors get third place. She scored a team-high 10 goals in the five games.

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