The ninth-ranked Long Beach State women’s water polo team is in the midst of a special season.
The 49ers (22-4, 3-2 Big West Conference) have clinched their first winning season since 2006. In his fifth year at the helm, LBSU coach Gavin Arroyo has assembled the pieces needed to be successful in the pool.
He did so, in part, by dipping into the waters of the local Moore League.
Junior goalkeeper Kelly Ringel has been a centerpiece of the 49ers’ dominant run this season.
The second-year starter went to Wilson High School, which is across the street from LBSU’s Blair Field. She then moved on to LBSU, where she recorded 265 saves as a sophomore, a close second to Kristen Stragier’s 286 in 2000 for the most by a 49er goalie in a single season.
Ringel took her first steps into athletics at a very young age. She joined a club swimming team in middle school, but she did not enjoy it.
“In eighth grade, I started playing water polo because a friend suggested it and said that he was doing it,” Ringel said. “In high school, I went out for the Wilson water polo team, and that is pretty much where it all started.”
One conversation changed the course of Ringel’s athletic career. When she became the last line of defense for the Bruins, she saw near immediate success.
Ringel received three varsity letters in high school, and in her senior year, she was named MVP of the Moore League.
Much of her success with The Beach has been linked to the experience she gained at Wilson. Southern California is rich in water polo talent, and playing for the Bruins exposed Ringel to some of the region’s top competition.
“We got to play against a lot of really talented players and girls that I still play against now at a lot of other colleges,” she said of facing CIF Southern Section powerhouses such as Mater Dei and Los Alamitos. “They’re all really good, and it gave me a look into how it was going to be like in college.”
Last year, Ringel played alongside Heather McKeon, her high school teammate. McKeon has since graduated, but the 49ers are loaded with Moore League talent. The Beach is carrying seven Moore League graduates on its roster this season.
Ringel may never have ended up in water polo if she had not talked about it with her childhood friend. Her family did not have a past of swimming athletes. Her father ran track and field in high school, and her mother did not play sports.
Therefore, the 49ers goalkeeper likes to think of herself as “a selfmade athlete.”
Ringel said she draws strength from the support of her teammates. They entered the season together, and the team is working toward some lofty goals.
Ringel was not shy in saying that the 49ers are seeking a trip to Boston to compete for a national championship.
“I think it helped us a lot not being ranked going into the season,” she said of the 49ers’ impressive season. “It took a lot of the pressure off.”
Ringel will have to be at the top of her game down the stretch. The 49ers are a well-known commodity now, and there will be no sneaking up on anyone they face from here on out.