A future first-generation college student, Righetti High School senior Emily Lopez had zeroed in on Santa Barbara City College as her school of choice for awhile.

She will indeed go there for the 2020-21 school year, pursuing her career goal of being a teacher and looking to continue her water polo career as well.

"I will go to Santa Barbara City College to train with their water polo program," said Lopez. "They have an awesome program.

"They have an awesome campus." Besides, with its campus across the street from the water front, "Who wouldn't want to live (in the SBCC area)?," said Lopez.

A three-year varsity player, Lopez has been an integral part of a rising Righetti girls water polo program. The Warriors won in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Lopez, who has also been active in the Righetti swim program, carries a 4.6 GPA at Righetti. She was the Righetti nominee for the 2020 Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table Female Scholar Athlete of the Year scholarship.

Schools closed statewide in March because of the pandemic. Team workouts went out the window too, and the CIF state office formally announced on April 3 that all spring post-season sports events were cancelled.

The last sports events on the Central Coast took place March 13.

"(The cancellation of team workouts) has been really hard on aquatics athletes," said Lopez. "It's been really crazy, with the shutdown of the pools. I used to do three workouts a day."

Now, "I've picked up running a lot," said Lopez. "I train with a close family friend."

Lopez said, "We (aquatics athletes) work very hard. It's very difficult to simulate a (swimming) stroke when you're training on land."

Last year, Lopez wrote in her scholarship essay, she developed a passion for coaching.

She worked with junior high school students. "Coaching is a lot harder than it seems," said Lopez.

"I love the kids. I love working with the kids, seeing them progress. They've taught me more than I've taught them. I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to coach."

Lopez plans to major in liberal studies, in either humanities or communications, and wants to teach at either the junior high school or elementary school level.

"I hope to teach either art or English," Lopez said.

"I've been interested in art for a long time. I'm artistic, and my grandparents were very artistic. I like abstract art best. I do some abstract art in my spare time."

Speaking of home, that is where Lopez is continuing her high education at this time, doing online learning, as are students across the nation, with school campuses closed.

"I'd rather be in the classroom, for sure," she said. "I really like working with other students, teachers.

"There's no way online learning can replicate that," said Lopez. "But you have to do what you have to do."

As for her water polo career, "I would love to play at the four-year (university) level," she said.

After her time at SBCC is done, "I hope to transfer to UCLA, or maybe Berkeley or UC Santa Barbara," said Lopez.

"UCLA is my dream school."


Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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