Laguna Athletes Seal College Deals

Friends and water polo teammates Lexi Del Toro, left, and Sydney Saxe, with their coach Ethan Damato, committed to Ivy League schools this week.

Seven Laguna Beach High School senior athletes so far have committed to play their respective sports next fall in college, three of them at Ivy League schools.

Robert Clemons committed this week to playing football for the Bulldogs at Yale University. Three female water polo players who plan to continue their sport in top colleges also made it official, including Alexis Del Toro, who received her official acceptance from Harvard University; Sydney Saxe, who will play for Princeton University; and Mackenzie Baldridge, who landed a scholarship to UC Santa Barbara.

Tennis player Teague Hamilton has also committed to UCSB for his sport, Marissa Greenough sealed a deal for South Carolina’s Erskine College for volleyball, and Weston Barnes signed on for volleyball at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Academic opportunities appear to dominate student decision making, perhaps even more than the daunting time commitment of continuing to play college-level sports. Most universities insist that prospective freshmen meet academic requirements for acceptance before striking any deal to recruit an athlete.

Clemons, for example, also received offers from University of Pennsylvania and Illinois’ Northwestern University, a Big 10

Robert Clemons will trade the Breakers jersey for Yale’s Bulldogs next year.

Conference football powerhouse. “I couldn’t really go wrong with any of them,” he admitted. But in the final count, he decided academics at the New Haven, Conn., campus suited him best.  “I told Coach Reno, the head coach at Yale, that I’d be a Bulldog next year. I’m really excited.”

Apparently for the girls water polo players, continuing to play the sport at a top academic college is now part of the high school team’s legacy.

“The older girls bring the freshmen in right away,” said Beth Saxe, whose daughter Sydney will attend Princeton. “They work their tails off and it’s a lot of work, but it pays off in the end,” she said.

LBHS grad and Olympic gold medalist Annika Dries certainly set the bar high. An ’09 grad, she received  five local scholarships, including the Masson Foundation’s water polo award, and also received scholarships to enroll at Stanford University. After leading their water polo team to the 2011 NCAA national championship, where she was named the tournament’s MVP, she took a year off to train for the London Summer Olympics. She returned to Stanford this fall, with her sights set on medical school.

More LBHS seniors, including football standout Drake Martinez, are expected to announce their college commitments soon, as the binding national letter of intent signing deadlines vary by sport and a few other factors. Under the terms of the letters, students typically agree to attend the school full-time for one year and, in turn, the school agrees to provide athletic financial aid for the same period.

Nov. 14 marked the first signing date, with additional deadlines falling on Dec. 19, Feb. 6, and April 17.

Technically Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships and have no NLI signing dates. Prospective student athletes go through the standard admissions process and are notified of acceptance at the same time as other applicants, but often opt for the early decision process.

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