By Giselle Cancio
Abbey Kerth has made her mark on the Arizona State women’s water polo team, but Division I collegiate athletics wasn’t always a part of the plan.
“I would actually just play, kind of like, street ball,” Kerth said. “We would just hop in the pool in the summers, learn and I would play with boys because I loved playing so much.”
The 22-year-old Naperville, Ill., native eventually joined a club team that had the chance to play on the West Coast. Those experiences gave her additional playing time and opportunities for schools with prominent water polo teams to watch her.
But ASU coach Todd Clapper recruited her for something other than her skills.
“When Abbey first got here, we knew that Abbey was a project,” Clapper said. “They may not come from an area where they get a ton of high quality competitive matches, but they’ve got that athletic ability, they’ve got that spark and that character that we’re looking for and she’s a perfect example of it.”
Four years later, Clapper has no regrets.
The business law major has been a leader on the team since the moment she jumped into the pool, and was given the honor of captain for this season.
“She works hard every day and it’s nice to see her get the results,” Clapper said. “She’s one of the top centers in the game right now and controls the middle of the pool, which is so crucial in this sport.”
The power defender gets by with a little help from her teammates, some of whom she admires for their skill set in the pool.
“I came here and no one thought I would ever be where I am today and that’s a large part of Ao Gao and Alicia Brightwell, because of them constantly challenging me,” Kerth said. “My first day in practice I was playing against a two-time Olympian (Gao) as my center defender so you can imagine how tough that has been for the last four years, but now I give her a run for her money.”
Kerth has played in every game since her sophomore year. She’s scored 68 goals and recorded 48 steals. More importantly, she has been an asset to a team that has been consistently ranked in the top 10.
The senior’s hard work and dedication extends beyond the pool as she recently was accepted into ASU’s accountancy master’s program and secured an assistantship with the Sun Devil Club.
“I think as a person I’ve grown in so many ways and that’s helped me get these opportunities to go to grad school, get internships and graduate assistant positions because I have such great time management skills,” she said.
Although Phoenix is more than 1,700 miles away from her doorstep, Kerth and her parents knew ASU was the place for her.
“I think the best advice someone gave me was ‘if water polo wasn’t a factor, do you still love the school,’ ” Kerth said.
“I love Arizona State.”
She credits the athletic community for helping her progress athletically and academically. She’s also grateful to have supportive parents that come watch her play as often as they can.
“I was so happy she chose ASU,” Abbey’s mother, Katie, said. “I was sad for us because it’s so far from home but kids just kind of know where they belong and that’s what she wanted.”