From Spain to Long Beach State, Gabi Matafora looks to continue her water polo career in the NCAA


Brian Levin

After her second straight season finishing in the top 10 in California for combined goals and assists, girls water polo MVP and center defender Gabi Matafora verbally committed to CSU Long Beach last month to play Division I water polo.

Although multiple colleges such as UC Davis and San Diego State were vying for Matafora’s signature, she chose to sign with Long Beach State.

“Long Beach State has a really strong competitive program so I don’t expect to play much my first year. I am really just expecting to learn from the older girls on the team,” Matafora said. “I want to grow with the program at Long Beach State.”

Matafora’s journey began in Spain, where she excelled in swimming and soccer. She moved to Mountain View her freshman year and decided to play water polo as she figured it would be “a good combination of [soccer and swimming].” After a very successful first season, she was called up to varsity for CCS playoffs.

It was also in her freshman year that she met fellow water polo player Madison Menard, beginning a friendship and forming a dynamic duo in the pool.

“Gabi and I have a telepathic link in which even if I’m on the other side of the pool, I’ll still know where she is,” Menard said.

Menard, a captain of the water polo team, describes Matafora as not just a great friend, but also incredibly supportive in the pool.

“As a captain, I can get very demanding, but she’s always very kind about everything. She always uses constructive criticism,” Menard said. “She always shows the new players what they should be doing. When they run a play correctly, she’s always there supporting them and congratulating them.”

For Matafora, water polo isn’t just a fun recreational activity. It’s also an escape.

“Water polo is a relief from all of my stress. It’s a great way to end my day, to just get in the pool and forget about everything that’s going away,” Matafora said. “Even if I’m having a terrible day, I’ll go to practice and the day gets better.”