In a sport where perfect hand-eye coordination is the key to blocking a shot, it is East Bay’s own Jayme Pekarske who excels on a level of her own as goalie for The Pioneers.
Water Polo is a team sport that consists of six field players and one goalkeeper.
The position of goalkeeper is generally known to be one of the most challenging positions, not only in water polo but also in any sport.
Goalies are the masters of quick and accurate lateral movements in the water as well as lightning fast lunges out of the water to block a shot. A goalie has to have the skill-set to jump out of the water, using little more than one’s core and legs, and hold the vertical position without sinking into the water, all while tracking and anticipating a shot.
The goalkeeper is also the “quarterback”, as he or she usually begins the offensive play. They are responsible for guiding and informing their defense of imposing threats and gaps in the formation that the defenders may not see.
It is Pekarske’s natural talents, hard work and love for the sport that has allowed her to excel at the goalkeeping position in her collegiate career.
“Jayme is an awesome goalie and was the cornerstone of our defense, she had a great first season at East Bay,” said head water polo coach Lisa Cooper. “I am excited for her senior season next year.”
The 6’1 junior from Riverside, California has been playing water polo since her sophomore year of high school and has been swimming since the age of ten.
In her first year at CSUEB and as goalie of the Pioneers, she was an impenetrable rock in front of the 10 by 3 foot goal.
As the everyday goalie and with her consistent play, the East Bay water polo team was able to finish off their best season in university’s history finishing fourth in the Western Water Polo Association Championships with an overall record of 20-15.
“All of the girls on the team just want to play polo and we’re making a name for ourselves,” said Pekarske. “I think we’re doing a good job of making East Bay known.”
On her way to helping the water polo program succeed, Pekarske took home WWPA Honorable Mention honors for a stellar year statistically that saw her earn 349 saves ranking her third in the conference with 27 assist and 48 steals.
She held opponents to seven or fewer goals in 14 games, including six of the last eight contests to finish the regular season and was ranked third in the conference with a 7.59 goals against average.
“Receiving the honorable mention is really an honor,” explains Pekarske. “But being a good goalie is all about my defense because a goalie is only as good as their defense. So I owe it all to my defense and my team.”
When Pekarske is not in the pool making saves for the Pioneers, she is working hard in her path to becoming a special needs teacher.
The Liberal Studies major is well on her way in pursuing her career as; she coaches a swim team in her hometown of Riverside in the summer, where she works with children with autism.
“It’s a challenge for sure,” explains Pekarske. “I literally spent two whole summers working everyday with one boy who finally learned how to swim. It’s extremely rewarding to see something that they have complete fear of and don’t want anything to do with, to in the end finally see them learn how to swim.”
Pekarske has left her mark in the lives of several autistic children but she also speaks on how some people have left a mark in her life.
Attending the same high school as Pekarske, goalkeeper of the men’s team, Gavyn Wild who currently plays for Loyola Marymount University, influenced Pekarske and her play in the pool.
She describes him as being an amazing goalie that became her inspiration and someone that she looks up to.
Before coming to East Bay, Pekarske spent her freshmen and sophomore years playing for Riverside Community College.
While at Riverside, the young athlete was being led by coach Dave Almquist, an Olympic goalie coach, who became someone whom Pekarske learned a great deal from.
After acquiring pivotal skills that have become a crucial part in Pekarske’s game, she decided to make the move to the East Bay.
“It’s kind of funny, I like punk rock and so Oakland and the whole Bay Area is known for puck rock and bands like Rancid,” explains Pekarske with a giggle in explaining why she chose to come to CSUEB. “I was like ‘East Bay? That’s where Rancid is from.’ So that was a big determining factor. The music up here and the culture is a big reason why I wanted to come here.”
Pekarske enjoys listening to Bay Area punk rock along with rock n roll and oldies.
She works at the clothing store, Zumiez and she explains that one of her hobbies is painting, altough the opportunities to sit down and paint are scarce because of school, work, water polo and other responsibilities.
Pekarske was a cross-country runner before becoming a goalie. The hot so-cal temperatures kept her attracted to the pool where she became interested in swimming, then found water polo where she never looked back after that.
As goalie of the Pioneers, members of the WWPA, Pekarske matches up with some of the best shooters in the nation.
“The balls come at me really fast,” said Pekarske. “I have to have really strong legs and work really hard. Being goalie is a big responsibility.”
A responsibility, however, that Pekarske has proven she is qualified to take on.
Her main motivating factor in succeeding in all aspects of her life is her mother; single mother of three children.
“Watching my mom pull forward was motivating,” said Pekarske.
Word of encouragement that have been instilled in Pekarske’s life by her mother, have allowed her to stay focused and to be a phenomenal athlete and water polo player.
“My mom would always tell me, ‘only you can make it happen. Only you.’”