Taylor Wilson’s bubble burst the first time she was to sign a college national letter of intent.
That bubble was actually her appendix.
The beach volleyball star, who took ill shortly before she was to participate in the fall signing ceremony at San Marcos High, was determined to take part in Wednesday’s spring event with four of her classmates.
Wilson, who was one of 19 athletes from Santa Barbara’s three Channel League schools to sign letters on Wednesday, has committed to play for Stanford next year.
“I was in the hospital room when I signed my actual letter-of-intent last November, but I wanted to come here and be with my school and my community,” Wilson said.
She estimates that her appendix ruptured about six hours before she went to the hospital.
“It was a very scary situation,” she said. “I missed a few months. I think I went back in February after being in the hospital in November, so I did have a little bit of a break.
“But that also made it that much better when I came back.”
Wilson, whose indoor fall season at San Marcos was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will return to competition next week when the Royals open their beach season.
“We have a pretty lined-up schedule so far,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to represent my high school one more time.
“I’m back to normal. I’m playing a lot — all the tournaments in California are opening up again, so I’ve been able to play. It’s been a nice reboot back into volleyball.”
Stanford, whose roster includes former San Marcos High star Ellie Gamberdella, is 17-8 so far this spring and ranked 10th in the nation.
“After the year we’ve had with COVID and everything, and not being able to have a senior year, I’m so grateful and so lucky to be going to my next home outside of Santa Barbara,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait.”
Other San Marcos athletes to sign on Wednesday were Lily Bienstock (soccer, Tufts), Peter Frisell (water polo, Chapman), Allie Fryklund (softball, Arizona Christian), and Emma Grabenstetter (water polo, Villanova).
Of the 19 signees from San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Dos Pueblos, six were from the sport of water polo.
Grabenstetter caught the wave at age 10.
“One of my friends had said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this, what don’t you come to one practice?’” she recalled. “I’d been swimming all my life and I was playing soccer at the time, and so it had everything I liked: Being in the water, and being that competitive team sport, where you can stay aggressive and physical.
“It kind of drew me in, and I’ve never looked back.”
Grabenstetter, a Santa Barbara native, was also drawn to the idea of “experiencing” a different part of the country. Villanova is located in Philadelphia.
“I loved that I would still be playing at a pretty competitive level, as I’ve always played, and going Division 1,” she said. “Academically, it’s a great school, so that was what kind of drew me to it.
“I do love the city and being able to go to the East, so it checked all the boxes.”
Dos Pueblos’ Kelly Meckelborg is headed in the other direction and will play water polo for Hawaii. Sammy Arshadi, star of the Chargers’ boys team, will play for Long Beach State.
DP’s other signees were Andrea Bish (swimming, Pomona Pitzer), Anna Chase (lacrosse, Whitworth), Kenzie Hemman (lacrosse, Whitworth), Liv Naaman (lacrosse, Mount Holyoke), and Precious Nwosu (soccer, Kansas Wesleyan).
Santa Barbara High water polo stars JuJu Martinez and Jordan Hayes elected to stay local and signed with UCSB.
“I moved to Santa Barbara three years ago and I just loved the city,” said Martinez, who is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I like the weather and everything, and the water polo and the academics at UCSB are just a great combination.”
Hayes said his “dream” to play for UCSB came when he was playing club water polo for former Gaucho assistant coach Ryan McMillan.
“I just fell in love with the school and wanting to play there,” he said. “UCSB has great water polo, both the men’s and women’s. They’re both very competitive in Division 1.”
Also signing national letters of intent were SBHS classmates Jake Knecht (football, UC Davis), Oliver McGibben (baseball, Colorado-Colorado Springs), Matthew Suh (volleyball, Princeton), and Luke Wechsler (baseball, Cal Lutheran).
Mark Walsh, Santa Barbara High’s boys and girls water polo coach, said it was an accomplishment for any athlete to get signed this spring. The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for its athletes because of COVID-19, leaving few openings on collegiate rosters.
“Not many colleges were recruiting players because they had a backlog of players from the previous year,” Walsh said. “They have five classes sitting at their campus right now.
“Most of the colleges just said, ‘Hey, we already have 30 players sitting here — it’s not fair to my players to bring in anyone else new.’ Even if they’re amazing players, there’s really no room for them to go … so I’m really glad they were able to find a place.”