The women’s team sports season isn’t quite over at the college level — the NCAA softball playoffs are at hand — but even a cursory review of the past athletic year shows Southern California Catholic high school grads making an impact at the highest level of college sports.

That was certainly true in basketball, where Mater Dei alum Katie Lou Samuelson, one of the finest local high school players ever to grace the hardwood, concluded an exemplary four-year career at the University of Connecticut, leading her team to its fourth straight Final Four appearance, including the 2016 NCAA title.

Three times an All-American, Samuelson ended her UConn career as the school’s fifth leading all-time scorer (2,342 points), and recently was drafted fourth overall by the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. At Mater Dei, Samuelson had been named National High School Player of the Year by Gatorade, USA Today, McDonald’s and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Assn. in 2015, and a first-team high school All-American.

Water polo

The recently-concluded NCAA tournament saw three local products in the pool among the Final Four teams, including 2016 Mater Dei graduate Kayla Constandse, a member of Stanford’s national champions. The junior Symbolic Systems major was twice Mater Dei’s team captain, three times All-Trinity League, and an Academic All-American.

Sabrina Garabet, a sophomore Public Relations major for NCAA runner-up USC, is a graduate of St. Lucy’s Priory in Glendora, where she was twice All-CIF second team, Baseline League MVP in 2015 and first team all-league honors in 2016.

Playing for NCAA semifinalist UCLA was Bella Baia, a freshman who spent two years at Santa Margarita and two at Mater Dei, earning first team All-CIF honors in 2017 and 2018, and the Trinity League MVP award in 2018.


Last fall’s NCAA Tournament Champion Stanford counted four local Catholic high school stars on its roster, including sophomore Meghan McClure, a 2018 All-Pac 12 and honorable mention All-American. At Santa Margarita HS, she was the 2016 1-AA CIF Player of the Year and twice a high school All-American; at Stanford, she majors in science, technology and society, and made the All-Pac 12 Academic first team.

Senior Payton Chang is yet another Mater Dei grad (2015), having been Trinity League Co-MVP and All-State and first team All-CIF-SS in 2014. Like McClure, Chang majors in science, technology and society.

The roster also includes twin sisters Michaela and Caitlin Keefe, juniors from Marymount High School in Westwood where they starred in basketball as well as volleyball, and now major in Political Science and International Relations, respectively. The Keefe sisters come from a solid athletic bloodline which includes their parents, Adam and Kristin, both in Stanford’s Athletic Hall of Fame (via volleyball), and grand-dad Bob Klein, from St. Monica High School, who played tight end for USC’s 1967 national champs and for the LA Rams.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News). 

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