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Girls water polo County Player of the Year: Emily Sonny

Arroyo Grande High School’s Emily Sonny has been named The Tribune County Girls Water Polo Player of the Year.
Arroyo Grande High School’s Emily Sonny has been named The Tribune County Girls Water Polo Player of the Year. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Is it so crazy to think that Emily Sonny could be a pitcher on the Arroyo Grande baseball team?

Maybe. But consider this: The senior water polo goalie certainly possesses the broad shoulders, strong arm and accuracy required. And she has some experience on the mound.

Until she was in fifth grade, Sonny was a pitcher for her local Little League team.

“I tried softball, and I just didn’t like it,” Sonny said.

After giving up baseball and trying her hand at a few different sports — such as surfing and volleyball, the latter where she won Co-Player of the Year honors last season — Sonny decided to take her athleticism, right arm and 6-foot-1 wingspan to the pool to play for the prestigious Arroyo Grande girls water polo program.

She even developed a couple of pitches.

“I worked a lot on putting backspin and not sidespin on my throws out of the back,” Sonny said.

This season, Sonny’s touch passes to sprinting Arroyo Grande field players helped extend the team’s PAC 8 winning streak to 128 games en route to a league championship. In her short water polo career, Sonny earned a 2015 Divison 3 CIF-Southern Section Player of the Year and Championship awards, a mention in Sports Illustrated, a full scholarship to play at Arizona State next season and a spot as The Tribune 2016 Girls Water Polo County Player of the Year.

Sonny and Arroyo Grande had the chance to add to their already impressive season, but a bid to become back-to-back CIF-Southern Section champs came up short against Martin Luther King High School last month in Irvine.

“Even though we are not CIF champions again, I couldn’t be prouder of the team, honestly,” Sonny said about the season-ending 7-1 loss. “We try to find something good. There is always a bright side to every game. Going to the championships again was huge. I don’t know if a lot of teams get to do that. That’s pretty nice.”

Sonny’s 344 saves were tops in the Southern Section for teams that reported stats, according to MaxPreps.com. She improved her save percentage nearly by 5 points from her MVP season of 2015 — but she’s more proud of her improvement as a leader.

“When I came in, I had (Arroyo Grande goalie) Kayla Mankins to look up to. But when she left, I kinda had to take more of a lead and had to stop messing around,” Sonny said.

VIDEO: See through the eyes of the Arroyo Grande girls water polo team

One place Sonny never messes around is at the gym.

“I like being buff. I don’t think, ‘Oh, like, I’m too muscular.’ I don’t ever think that. I’m like, ‘More muscle, more muscle,’ ” Sonny said, adding she can be found eating hard boiled eggs and granola bars during her first-period class. “Some are like. ‘I like to stay girly,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, you just got to go for it.’ ”

She has already started Arizona State’s weightlifting program and got the chance to watch her future team — which finished last season ranked No. 9 in the NCAA — at the CIF tournament.

“It was nice to see what is expected of me as a goalie,” Sonny said. “How (starting ASU goalie) Mia (Rycraw) is, and, OK, can I do that?”

If last season’s roster holds true, Sonny will be the fifth goalie this season. Only one is a senior.

“I love having competition. It just makes me want to work even harder, and I hope that never changes,” Sonny said.

Sonny said she will miss the “paradise” of the Central Coast but can’t wait to be exposed to new cultures. Last year’s ASU roster had players from Australia, England, Spain, Canada, Serbia, China and the Netherlands.

Sonny has grown up in California, but her family has Croatian roots. Sonny said her given family name is actually Sincich (which means Sonny Boy). When her grandfather worked on planes for the U.S. during the Korean War, his co-workers teased him about the name — so he changed it.

Sonny said she thinks it’s fitting.

“I like the name. Sonny is cool,” she said. “Sonny is going to play for the Sun Devils.”

Season Stats

Save Percentage: 75.94

Shutouts: 4

Saves: 344

Steals: 53

Assists: 22

Goals Scored: 1

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