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Inside Moll’s inspiring journey to UC San Diego water polo commitment

Abby Moll committed to UC San Diego. Photo courtesy of Tamalpais Athletics
Abby Moll committed to UC San Diego. Photo courtesy of Tamalpais Athletics

The first day of tryouts, Tamalpais girls water polo coach Paul Hettler kept asking these questions.

Who is this girl? Where did she come from? Because there’s no way Abby Moll, now a senior water polo star at Tamalpais, was destined for the junior varsity ranks. She was destined for the varsity level.

But the craziest part of it all was that Moll has never played water polo before, yet she made it look effortless in the pool.

“It’s sort of like this crazy week where it’s a tryout week, it’s our first week of practice and there’s a lot of new faces,” Hettler said. “Her fierceness, this is a word I use a lot with Abby…She just has it 10 out of 10. It’s not something you coach into a player. A lot of players have talent. A lot of players have drive, but to have all the talent, all the drive that Abby has and have that ferocity. It was just really obvious day one.”

Some of Moll’s friends in middle school played water polo, and it was a sport that interested her. She wanted to be like them.

She wasn’t home for trouts, though, her freshman year and said to herself that she won’t do it that year.

Sophomore year rolled around, and Moll decided this would be the time to give the sport a try. And, right then and there, it was obvious she was different, with the coaching staff telling her she was going to stay with the varsity squad, all the while surprised she had never played water polo before.

“All of my friends, because we all just started playing the same year, they all went to JV and I was like the one person on varsity all by myself,” Moll said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way, starting and playing with some amazing players that have been playing for four years, that just set the bar higher. 

“My friend, Sam, she just wouldn’t give no. I couldn’t catch the ball in one certain direction, and she would throw it as hard as she could at me every time, so then eventually I would have to be able to catch it. Them, going onto a highly competitive team without really playing the sport at all just gave me so much passion for it, and I was just so excited to get started.”

Immediately, Moll thrived as a water polo player, and it was clear that this was not a sport she would just compete in high school.

Moll would someday be a student-athlete in the collegiate ranks.

With Moll in the fray, Tamalpais earned its way to back-to-back North Coast Section Division II titles in 2018 and 2019, knocking off the top seed in each of those two seasons in the championship game. 

A star was born.

“It’s not an easy sport,” Hettler said. “It’s considered among the top five most physically demanding sports on the planet, and it takes a level of commitment. I think that our NCS victories in 2018, 2019, our NorCal victory last year, Abby just kind of really flourished in that, and I think maybe to me, if I could speak for you, Abby, she sort of said to herself, ‘I can do this. This works for me.’ And we’ve seen the results, so it’s a natural outcome of that path.”

Besides just in the CIF competition, Moll has delivered in every other avenue in the sport during her brief water polo tenure.

Competing in the Junior Olympics and with the Olympic Developmental Program for USA Water Polo, Moll noticed that something was different, as she was holding her own and succeeding versus athletes who she said were 10 times better than her.

“They’re so good, and you’re just able to learn a lot about how you are as a player and what you can do better and just teach other people things, so playing with that high level is something that I’m going to keep getting to do in college,” Moll said. “Obviously they’re the best of the best girls, and it’s inspiring because I know some of these girls have been playing since they could walk, and it’s kind of crazy to be playing alongside them when I started two years ago. I’m just very proud of myself.”

Those college dreams turned out to be true, with Moll committing to UC San Diego over other options that included places like Bucknell and Santa Clara, where she wants to begin her path towards working in the medical field someday.

What Moll’s journey shows is that no matter how long you’ve been involved in something, how high your goals are, anything is possible.

“It’s so inspiring,” Hettler said. “I always knew she could play Division I, and to have this happen, I just love how the universe works. You set a goal. You set your intention for something, and you work really hard at it, and then you make it happen, and that’s what Abby did.”

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