Fults a speedy standout for Sailors

Newport Harbor High senior girls' water polo player Heidi Fults can't seem to stay away from the water.

It makes sense when one considers her family. Her mother, Suzanne, was a sailor growing up, while her father, Greg, was a water polo player. Heidi's older brothers Kyle and Cory also both played water sports during their time at Newport Harbor, water polo for Kyle and surfing and outrigger paddling for Cory.

'We're definitely all the water," said Heidi Fults, who enjoys taking trips to Catalina as often as possible aboard the Fults' sailboat, "Lemuria."

But last year, her junior year, Heidi said she wasn't in the water as much as she hoped for the Sailors. She was a key reserve off the bench as the team advanced back to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title game, but she wanted more.

"I had a lot of trouble during the season, just because of everything that was going on," she said. "I wanted to play more, and I wanted to be more involved. I feel like I just didn't really get much of a chance last year, but maybe I did. Maybe [Coach Bill Barnett] just didn't think I was ready, which is fine."

Fults said she questioned whether she wanted to continue to play water polo in college. But she stuck with it, and this year's Sailors can be grateful for that decision.

Now Fults has signed with the University of Hawaii, a destination that's not surprising for the blonde-haired water child. What may be more surprising is just how much Fults has excelled in her first year as a starter.

The attacker is third on the team with 17 goals. Seven of those came in last weekend's Holiday Cup, when Fults helped the Sailors (9-2) finish a strong second, pushing Laguna Beach in the championship match. She scored a season-high four goals against Rosary in the quarterfinals, and three more in the final.

Even more than that, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week showed her versatility. Fults also drew five exclusions in a semifinal victory over Foothill.

"She's a good athlete," Barnett said. "She's fast, she's quick and she throws the ball with a lot of speed and accuracy."

Barnett also coached Heidi's father, Greg, who was quite a player himself back in the day. He was a senior on the undefeated 1975 Newport Harbor team that won the program's fourth CIF championship, and could be considered one of the best prep water polo teams ever assembled. Greg Fults went on to start as a freshman in college at USC, as did John "Spanky" Dobrott (UC Santa Barbara), Frank Anderson (Stanford), George Newland (UC Irvine) and future Olympian Kevin Robertson (Cal).

A 1998 Los Angeles Times article ranked that '75 Sailors squad as the fourth-greatest prep team in Orange County history — in any sport. Robertson and Anderson were co-CIF Division 4A Players of the Year. Greg Fults would be a four-time All-American with the Trojans.

"A lot of good athletes [on that team], and he was one of them," Barnett said. "He could walk on water, his legs were so strong."

Greg said he did not pressure Heidi to play water polo, but he's definitely at her high school games to watch, and sometimes do more than that. Sometimes he'll give advice to Heidi, as the Sailors wait on the lane line in between quarters.

"He always talks about water polo," Heidi said with a smile of her father. "He's like a water polo fiend. During quarter [breaks], he will say little things to me, just to kind help me out. It is nice, getting a little something extra."

The Sailors have gotten more out of Heidi Fults this year than ever before. She has put in her time with the sport since starting to play in the fifth grade. Her freshman year at Harbor she played frosh/soph, and she was a junior varsity player as a sophomore.

Now her quickness is valuable on the varsity team. And she's even been working out with the set girls lately, which she said she enjoys, though the team already has four girls who play at two meters.

College will be fun, too. Heidi said one of her older brothers, Cory, lives on the North Shore of Oahu, so he'll be close by.

"I didn't want to go to the East Coast," she said. "I can't do cold weather for my life. I feel like we've been living in the Arctic tundra lately, with this cold weather. I'm such a warm weather person, and I'm such an ocean person too. I love everything over there."

Heidi Fults just loves playing water polo again. And she shows her maturity when talking about the CIF rankings. The Sailors are currently ranked No. 3 in Division 1, but all of the top four teams appear to be very competitive.

Newport Harbor could meet No. 2-ranked Corona del Mar for the second time this year next weekend at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. If the seedings hold, the rivals would meet in the semifinals on Saturday.

"Rankings for me aren't as big of a deal, because I just feel like everything will play out in the end how it's supposed to," Fults said. "Rankings, I don't want to say this, but in a way they're just kind of a number. Not everybody agrees with them. It just depends on who shows up to play ... I would love to play [CdM] again."

Every chance for Fults to start this year, to get in the water and put on that No. 8 cap, is one that she doesn't want to miss.

Heidi Fults

Born: Aug. 12, 1996

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-5

Sport: Water polo

Year: Senior

Coach: Bill Barnett

Favorite food: Mango

Favorite movie: "Into the Blue"

Favorite athletic moment: Beating rival Corona del Mar in the quarterfinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions last year.

Week in review: Fults helped the Sailors place second in the annual 16-team Holiday Cup tournament. She drew five exclusions in a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Foothill in the semifinals and tied for the team lead with three goals in the final, an 11-8 loss to Laguna Beach.

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