In her fourth year as a keeper for the Cal water polo program, Lindsay Dorst has faced the best collegiate water polo can offer.
This year, Lindsay encountered a new challenge. Whenever Cal plays UCLA or Stanford, Lindsay is pitted against familiar faces in an unfamiliar setting. Across the pool are her sisters, Becca and Emily.
Yet no matter how foreign this situation may be, Lindsay has been able to balance a loyalty to both family and team.
Along with Becca and Emily, Lindsay tried her hand in a multitude of different sports growing up, yet the sisters all ultimately settled on water polo. Living in a house with parents who were aquatic athletes played a major role in their decision.
Lindsay’s mother, Marybeth, was a decorated Stanford swimmer while her father, Chris, was a silver medalist with America’s Olympic water polo team. Chris’s expertise as a keeper and connections in the water polo community have been invaluable for his girls.
At the dinner table, typical family banter would quickly change into a water polo centered conversation after one of the girls would pose a question to their father.
“Any advice we ever needed to hear, we would always ask my dad,” Lindsays says. “He has been like the ‘water polo oracle.’”
With two seasoned athletes for parents, the girls developed a passion for the sport and joined elite clubs and high school teams.
Chris fostered his daughters’ growing involvement in the water polo community. But as a fanatic Stanford alum, he also fostered in his daughters a love of the Cardinal and frequently took his family to football games.
In the midst of a Big Game one year, Lindsay turned to her Dad and said, “I hate Cal! I’m never going to go there.”
What Chris said to his daughter surprised her.
“Cal is a great school, Lindsay, and your mom and I would be proud if you went there.”
Her father had just done the unthinkable for Lindsay. He had given her permission to attend a school she loathed.
Lindsay immersed herself more in the sport and joined the NorCal water polo club. Division I water polo programs began to take notice. Yet throughout the recruitment process, she never forgot what her dad told her.
When the Dorsts arrived at Cal on a recruiting trip in 2008, Chris introduced Lindsay to an old friend, head coach Richard Corso. Corso was his position coach at the 1984 Olympics. Although Lindsay fell in love with the campus and the team, it was Corso who sealed the deal.
“Rich made me feel like he wanted me a lot, which wasn’t necessarily the case at a lot of other schools,” Lindsay says. “Some of the schools just assumed that because of their past success obviously you would want to go there.”
In the fall of 2009, Lindsay enrolled at Berkeley, a place she could never have imagined herself just years earlier.
Although Lindsay redshirted her freshman year, she saw more playing time her third year on a team that fell in the championship game. This season Lindsay has taken over the starting role and ranks fourth in MPSF in goals allowed a game.
During Lindsay’s slow rise, Emily and Becca were beginning their college decision making process.
Despite Lindsay’s phone calls and recruiting efforts, Becca signed with UCLA and Emily enrolled at Stanford, each making a path independent of their other sisters. Although Dorst was disappointed she would never suit up next to her sisters, she had to come to terms with the idea of having to play against her sisters in a big-time college environment.
“When I went to college for the first time I gave Emily a lot of Cal gear,” Lindsay says. “Then came her decision to go to Stanford and all of a sudden all her Cal stuff is in the give-away bag. I had become anti-Stanford so I had to chip away at that concrete wall surrounding my heart.”
It’s now the 2012 season and the push for the postseason is heating up. Cal, Stanford and UCLA are locked in a close race all at the top of the MSPF standing as well as the national rankings. Lindsay, a redshirt junior, and Becca, a sophomore, have been at the forefront of their teams’ late season surges, it is only a matter of time before Emily, a freshman, emerges from under the wings of Stanford’s older keepers.
At the Stanford Invitational in early February of this year, the girls all met on opposing college benches for the first time. In the first meeting of the year between UCLA and Cal, the Bruins edged the Bears 4-3.
“It was weird having to face off and block some of Becca’s shots,” Dorst said. “The nonchalant environment of high school wasn’t there anymore. Becca and I had to kind of muster up all of our professionalism and treat each other like any other player.”
Cal has high hopes this season following last year’s runner up finish at the NCAA Championship. Lindsay and the other leaders on the team know their goals can only be accomplished if they focus on themselves and ignore outside distractions.
“The bar has been raised, my sisters and I can’t just nonchalantly vent to one another anymore,” Dorst said. “I love my sisters, but we are all so loyal to our schools and programs that we wouldn’t risk trading insider information.”
No matter how heated the race to the postseason becomes and no matter how loyal the girls must remain to their squads, their devotion has not blinded them to what really matters: their family.
When UCLA played Cal in their MPSF match up this past Saturday, Lindsay made save after save against her sister. The Bears jumped all over the Bruins early, yet UCLA made a comeback behind two goals from Becca.
The game came down to the last two possessions in which Dorst and Cal made huge defensive stops. As the Bears ran out the clock in their own end, the Bruins began to swim back to their bench, but one player went the opposite direction.
As the final horn sounded, the lasting image was two Dorst sisters embracing.