Just as he did for the men, former U.S. Olympic water polo goalie Chris Dorst will be poolside offering analysis on the NCAA.com webcast for the 2012 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship.
Only this time it most likely will be personal.
That’s because Dorst’s oldest daughter, Lindsay, is the senior goalkeeper for fourth-ranked Cal.
And because his youngest, Emily, is a freshman backup goalie for top-ranked and defending-champion Stanford.
And also because his middle child, Becca, is a sophomore and the second-leading scorer for second-ranked UCLA.
The family ties hardly end there. UCLA’s leading scorer, senior KK Clark, is Dorst’s niece, sister Jane’s youngest daughter.
So it’s very likely that Dorst will be offering commentary on at least one of his daughters when the four semifinals teams converge in San Diego May 11-13.
It’s not like the three Dorst sisters were born with webbed feet, but somehow you had to figure they were destined for some kind of aquatic success. Their mom, the former Marybeth Linzmeier, was an eight-time NCAA-champion swimmer at Stanford and member of the 1980 U.S. team that wasn’t allowed to compete in the Moscow Olympics because of the boycott over the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. She missed out on making the 1984 team by three one-hundredths of a second.
Chris, who played water polo at Stanford, was on the 1980 Olympic team and made it again for the 1984 Los Angeles games when the U.S. won the silver medal.
“When they were newly married, oh my, the athleticism. They would work out and then they would work out,” Jane Clark said of Chris and Marybeth. “It’s different when you’ve been to the Olympics. It’s a different gear than most people.”
“I’ve always just thought of them as Mom and Dad,” Emily Dorst said. “But when I would tell people and they’d be like, ‘Oh, wow, Olympians!” I really didn’t think much of it until I heard more and more people have that reaction.”
So everyone expected the Dorst girls, who grew up in Menlo Park just south of San Francisco, would be special in the pool. And they were right.
“It’s called marrying well,” Chris Dorst joked. “Marybeth was an Olympic swimmer, a tremendous athlete at pretty much anything she tried. She goes out and plays old-people tennis and dominates folks, so I’d love to take credit for it, but only to the extent that the girls got exposed to sports at an early age.
“It wasn’t because Mommy and Daddy were Olympians, but because we wanted them to get out and get healthy. They all did a lot of different thing and fortunately for me, gravitated to water polo, because I know enough about it to be a very annoying spectator.”
One of the more interesting games he watched was April 7 at Cal (now 17-6) against then-No. 1 UCLA. For Lindsay, listed by Cal as a 6-footer but she says she’s a shade shorter, the 8-6 win was the biggest of her career. Becca, however, scored three of UCLA’s goals.
“That was a really fun day for me,” Lindsay said. “It was a big deal for me in a lot of ways. It was my senior day. It was the first game that I got to start against UCLA in my own pool. And Cal was getting to play the top-ranked team in the NCAA. All of those factors sort of culminated into this emotional day where I was feeling nostalgic to begin with, with really mixed emotions. I was really excited and I was really sad and I was really anxious to play against my cousin and my sister and I knew my whole family would be there. It was just a very emotional experience. The intensity was pretty high.”
Especially when Becca scored on a six-on-five, her first collegiate goal against her big sister.
“Becca scored three goals on me and I’m so proud of her for playing so well,” Lindsay said.
Not that Becca hadn’t scored on Lindsay before. After her freshman year at Menlo-Atherton High School, Lindsay transferred to Sacred Heart, where she played with KK. That left at least one game when they played against Becca and Emily.
In that UCLA-Cal game two weeks ago, “I was pretty upset when she scored on me the third time,” Lindsay said, “because it was a backhand and I know how she shoots and I should have been ready for it.”
“How many times has she scored that on me in practice? At that point UCLA had been chipping away at the lead and I was so frustrated with myself. But at the end of the game she swam over to me and we hugged in the water and it finally hit me that it was a huge win for us and I just started bawling.”
Everyone in the family was there except for Emily, whose Stanford team (19-1) was playing across town against USC, winning 9-8 in overtime. Emily, by the way, is 5-11 and the shortest member of the family. Becca is 6-0 and cousin KK is 6-2.
Emily and Becca were extremely close growing up because they were not only a year apart, but they shared a bedroom. All three say they’re closer than ever now.
“I think I was a more mature kid and hung out with the adults,” Lindsay said. “I never played with Barbies or anything. I was always interested in conversation and they were doing whatever they did. As we grew up, we really grew closer together, especially because we went to different high schools. We had to work harder to be in each others’ lives. But Becca and Emily do have fun together.”
Lindsay said Emily has a great sense of humor.
“Her timing is impeccable. She knows the right thing to say all the time and she’ll just crack me up because she has a dry humor.”
In terms of water polo, Emily is waiting her turn, which doesn’t surprise her dad, who knows she’ll capitalize on her chance when it arrives. This season, Emily has played about a third of the time, waiting for powerful Stanford to build big leads.
“She’s always squared up to the shooter and always has her eye on the ball and always has her hand in the way,” Chris said. “I had a coach tell me once she always figures out a way to have the ball hit her hand.”
Lindsay, of course, is getting pretty good at that. Like all the Dorst sisters, she played multiple sports growing up.
“We grew up in an athletic family, not that we were ever forced into things. I think we just wanted to compete. Maybe that’s because our parents were such good athletes,” Lindsay said.
And the lanky Lindsay actually had to choose between volleyball and water polo when she got to high school.
“They were in the same season and it was a big decision for me. Not only did I play volleyball in school, I played club volleyball and that was a big-time commitment. It definitely was not an obvious choice to play water polo.”
Actually it was a social decision.
“I think it came down to a lot of my friends played water polo,” she said with a laugh. It was after she transferred to Sacred Heart that she became a goalkeeper.
“Lindsay is very athletic, very long. As long as her arms are, she’s surprisingly quick in the water with very fast hands that allows her to do some things in the goal that a lot of players don’t have the physical capability of doing,” Chris Dorst said. “She’s a real student of the game and I love the fact that she’s become much more aggressive and comes out of the goal and challenges shooters. She’s very smart when it comes to positioning and how you align against certain kinds of offenses. This is her first year to start and it’s great to see her grow into the talent she has.”
While Cal is coming on late in the season, UCLA has been at or near the top all spring. The Bruins are 16-2 and have scored 148 goals, 39 by Clark and 21 by Becca Dorst.
“Becca has always been a great athlete. She was very good in basketball. She was good at everything she’s tried and that’s a credit to her mother,” Chris Dorst said. “She’s very graceful in the water and she does a lot of things that other kids can’t do. She’s got some very natural gifts.”
“Becca is the quintessential student of the game,” Lindsay said. “She is constantly asking questions about water polo. I’d say that Becca is a coach’s player. She’s a girl you really want on your team. She doesn’t yell at other players, she’s a silent leader. She works super hard. If something isn’t going right for her, she’ll stay after practice and work on it. She’s really self-motivated to get better. I’ve learned a lot from her.”
Just the opposite of Lindsay, Becca started out as a goalie, “but I got bored. I needed a bit more of a workout … I was real antsy in the cage and got super depressed when a goal was scored on me. So I made the switch and never looked back.”
It’s a lot more fun to depress the other team’s goalie. And with Clark, the two have combined to score 40 percent of the Bruins’ goals.
“It’s been awesome. I talk about how amazing it is to play against your sisters, but to play with someone you’re related to, it’s special. I’ve been told me and KK share a connection. We’re both pretty tall and have long arms and there have been plenty of times when I can read what she’s thinking and I can read what she’s thinking. It’s awesome.”
None of that surprises Jane Clark, Chris Dorst’s sister and KK’s mom. Their families did most everything together, especially holidays, so much as sporting events.
“When they were growing up, we used to be really careful driving places because driving family meant you had three-quarters of the team in your backseat,” Clark said.
“Who would have guessed? They played a lot of sports growing up. And KK, our youngest, who has had the most success, played JV her first two years of high school.”
This might be a good time to point out that KK’s older sisters, Zizi and Christie, were standout water polo players at UC Santa Barbara.
“KK has tremendous talent,” Chris Dorst said. “She’s 6-2 and swims a 22-flat 50 freestyle. We didn’t have guys who did that when I was coming through.”
She’s a perfect complement to Becca.
“There’s something amazing about having family with you wherever you go and coming from me, I think that family is one of the most important things in my life,” Becca said. “So I can’t tell you how awesome it has been having her on the team with me. If I need somewhere to go, if I need someone to talk to, I know I can count on her. And she knows she can count on me.”
All of which makes Chris Dorst smile. He knows he’ll be in San Diego the second weekend of May. He’s just hoping the 2012 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship is a big Dorst family affair.
“I try to pinch myself because it’s almost unreal. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see them all doing so well.
“It’s funny, people think, OK, the parents were Olympians, so therefore the kids were destined for something like this. It’s such a slap in the face to how hard they’ve worked and how much they’ve invested in their individual careers. It’s not like they were granted something like this, I’m just proud of how they’ve applied themselves,” Chris Dorst said.
“You know, they got into three of the best colleges in the world, they’re surrounded by people they like playing with, they’re challenged by their teammates, they’re challenged by their academics, it’s a parent’s dream that kids can be at schools like that. The fact that they’re able to play water polo, for me, is just icing on top of the icing of the cake. I love the sport and I’m obviously going to be involved in it till the day I die, but to see them compete and do so well, it’s magical.”