Elissia Schilling listened to her father, John, on the car ride just more than two weeks ago.
In her first year starting at center, Elissia was averaging about a goal per game for the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team. John believed his daughter could do more.
"He's always pushing me, which is a great thing," Elissia Schilling said. "We were driving up to Santa Barbara and talking in the car. I remember he was like, 'This is going to be your tournament. I can feel it.'"
Little more than a stone's throw from where he played basketball at UC Santa Barbara, John watched his words come true. His daughter scored nine goals in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, including the game-winner in overtime against Laguna Beach. She was on the all-tournament team, helping the Sailors finish a strong second despite being seeded fourth.
Maybe something was unleashed up there off Highway 101. Now, it seems like nobody can stop "Schil."
The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week scored a big five goals in last week's 9-7 Sunset League victory over Los Alamitos, giving the Sailors the inside track to the league title. On Friday, she was at it again. Schilling scored a team-high four goals in the Sailors' nonleague victory over Laguna Beach, including the game-winning goal in the second sudden-death overtime period.
Friday's winner was a backhand. But she has also proven adept at sweep shots, lobs, any other shot in the book. She has worked hard on her leg strength and it's showing for the Sailors, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll.
"She's a very crafty shooter," Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett said. "It's not so much that her role has changed. She's become a more dominant player."
Schilling has zoomed up to second on the Sailors (15-4) with her 34 goals scored. She's just two goals behind one of her best friends, UCLA-bound senior teammate Maddy McLaren. Schilling is also third on the team with 20 steals.
But there's an intangible at work here, too — her drive to succeed.
"She's definitely very competitive, which helps us out a lot in big games," McLaren said after Schilling's effort against Los Alamitos. "She wants to go for the win. She'll score those last-second goals."
Schilling has come a long way from when she started playing the sport when she was 7 years old. At first, she wasn't sure water polo was the right sport.
"I played AYSO soccer," she said. "I was kind of skeptical about the whole thing."
But she progressed quickly. In the summer of 2010, she played with the Newport Water Polo Foundation 18-and-under team at the Junior Olympics in Los Angeles. She was just 15 at the time.
"That was the year we had Kate [Klippert], Kaleigh [Gilchrist]," Schilling said. "All of them graduated, that huge senior class. Some of the younger girls got moved up to play with the 18s. I was so scared. The Santa Barbara team had Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill. I didn't want to mess up. I didn't want the older girls to think that I wasn't capable of playing at that level. But it was a really good experience, being able to play up."
Confidence grew in her sophomore year, when Schilling was a backup center to Kailyn Obenauer. She got a good amount of playing time and also had a big goal, the game-winner in the Battle of the Bay rivalry game at Corona del Mar.
Maybe there is just something clutch about those Schillings. Elissia's younger sister Chanel, a freshman at Harbor who also plays at two meters, similarly came up big earlier this year. She scored the game-winning goal with just a second to go, helping the Newport junior varsity team beat Harvard-Westlake to win the Costa Mesa Winter Classic varsity tournament. Elissia's other two younger sisters, Chloe and Arianna, play water polo and soccer, respectively.
"I have a huge family," said Elissia Schilling, who also has four older brothers and sisters from her father's first marriage. "Christmas is a fun time."
Schilling usually has a fun time when she's with her good friends, McLaren and junior Avery Peterson. They could be rocking out to the video game, "Just Dance." Or they could be heading to one of their occasional food spots, Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles in Long Beach.
It's a good place for the girls to quickly earn back those calories they burn off playing water polo.
"We'll go once every couple of months," Schilling said. "It's more the experience of making the drive up to Long Beach. We'll just walk in, and people will look at us like, 'What are you doing here?' It's just the experience; it's so fun."
Unlike many of her Newport Harbor teammates, one place you won't find Schilling is on Twitter. She said technology is not her thing. But that's OK, because McLaren created the account "Things Schil Says" (@thingsschilsays) so everyone could track Schilling's latest fun quotes.
Next year, though, McLaren will be in Westwood.
"I don't know how we're going to run our Twitter account," Schilling said. "I haven't thought about that. We'll find a way."
Lately, Schilling usually does.
Born: Feb. 14, 1995
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 5-foot-9 1/2
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Bill Barnett
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite movie: "Blue Crush"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping Newport Harbor win the Battle of the Bay her sophomore year. Schilling scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Sailors beat CdM, 6-5.
Week in review: Schilling scored a season-high five goals to help Newport Harbor beat Los Alamitos, 9-7, in a key Sunset League game Jan. 18.