Lauren Martin's introduction to water polo came with a healthy dose of trepidation.
As a fourth-grader, she joined older sister Claire, a sixth-grader, at a summer camp designed to teach the sport's fundamentals.
"I was really scared," Martin said. "There were other girls bigger than me."
Martin is striking fear now as one of the most physically imposing players in the Central Section.
A three-year starter, Martin was the leader of a Clovis West High team that finished third at the Northern California Championships tournament, won the Tri-River Athletic Conference and finished as the section Division I runner-up. She is The Bee's Girls Water Polo Player of the Year, edging Clovis goalie Kelsie Harvey for the honor.
"Lauren was the dominant player. She was the one," Buchanan coach Scott Schiller said. "We had to design everything we did on defense around stopping her. We didn't have anyone who could match up with her physically."
Martin scored 79 goals, had 23 assists, made 55 steals and drew 35 ejections as the Golden Eagles went 26-6 overall, losing only once against section opposition, a 3-2 setback to Clovis in the D-I final after beating the Cougars three times during the regular season.
The 5-foot-10 Martin led Clovis West in scoring despite often facing double- and triple-teams from opposing defenses.
"Rarely have I had teams triple-team a girl in games, and she was triple-teamed by every team in this area," Clovis West coach Scott Torosian said. "In the beginning, it was really frustrating for her because she didn't think she was doing anything in the game. But once we opened the middle up for her, she scored almost every single time she touched the ball."
Even when she wasn't putting the ball in the back of the cage, Torosian said, Martin made an impact with her passing skills and defensive presence. "If a team was dropping, she'd get it back out to her teammates," Torosian said. "That's something that's hard to teach. You have to have vision to do that. She definitely has that.
"And her biggest improvement came on defense. She played above the level I expected her to play. That allowed her to become the overall player I wanted her to become."
After getting over her initial fear of competing against older and bigger players, Martin developed a love for water polo at those summer camps, which she attended for three straight summers before joining the program at Kastner Intermediate School.
And she's on the verge of joining older sister Claire, a freshman at Long Beach State, as a Division I water polo player. Martin said she has a scholarship offer from UC Santa Barbara, which she plans to accept.
"My goal has been to get a scholarship and play Division I college," Martin said. "It feels really good to achieve that and know I'll be playing polo the next four years."