Dos Pueblos alum Sami Hill is ecstatic after winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table will be inducting seven new members into its Hall of Fame on Monday, Sept. 18. The Induction Class of 2023 includes four athletes, a coach, a community leader, and a special achievement honoree.

This is the third in a series of stories about this year’s inductees.

Sami Hill has an impressive list of athletic accomplishments in her life.

She was a star student athlete at Dos Pueblos High and UCLA, earning all-league, all-CIF, all-conference, All-American and MVP honors in water polo.

As a member of U.S. Women’s National Water Polo Team, she won gold medals in several international competitions, and capped her career with an Olympic Games Gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“Winning an Olympic Gold Medal in the sport that I love has been my greatest athletic achievement,” she said. “I am most proud of this because I was able to represent myself, my family and my community on the world’s biggest stage.”

Sami’s Olympic journey started in 2012 when she was invited to be a training goalie for the U.S. team ahead of the London Games.

“I consider this to be one of the toughest stretches of my career, but also one of the most transformative,” she admitted.

Sami makes a save for Team USA. Her goalkeeping helped win several international tournament championships. (Courtesy photo)

She made sacrifices in her life to chase an Olympic dream. She took a redshirt year as a sophomore at UCLA and moved to Long Beach to train full time with the national team. 

“Away from my friends at school and thrusted into a professional athlete setting was a little bit of a shock to the system at first, but once I got my footing, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from some of the best water polo players in the world,” she said. “The experience was invaluable as a young Olympic-hopeful, and I carried the lessons I learned with me throughout the rest of my career.”

The sacrifices paid off in the next Olympics cycle. She was selected to the U.S. team and became an Olympic champion.

Sami and her sister, Kodi, were teammates at UCLA and Dos Pueblos. (Courtesy photo)

Sami was part of the Dos Pueblos girls water polo dynasty. She was the goalie on three straight CIF-SS championships teams (2008, 2009, 2010) and earned All-CIF honors in her four years as a Charger.

She was named the SBART Girls Water Polo Player of the Year in 2009.

She competed on the varsity swim team for four years and was a 3-year varsity letter winner in golf at DP.

She played water polo at UCLA and set the program’s goalie saves record for a single season (320) and career (950). 

Her Bruin teams finished as NCAA runners-up in 2014 and 2015. She was a first-team All-American and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year in 2014.

Sami played professional water polo for a year in Australia before immersing herself into coaching.  

She worked as an assistant with the boys water polo team at Dos Pueblos for two seasons (2017-18) while also coaching with the Santa Barbara 805 Club.

Sami, left, celebrates with Dos Pueblos teammate Kayla Rodriguez after one of the Chargers’ CIF championships. (Courtesy photo)

She became the head coach for the boys and girls water polo teams at Del Norte High in San Diego in 2019 before accepting an assistant coaching position at the University of Michigan in 2022.

In her first season with the Wolverines, she helped lead the team to a third-place finish in the CWPA Conference Championships and a 23-10 overall record.

Sami married her college sweetheart, Sam Tai, who played football at UCLA. They live in Ann Arbor with their dog Lilo.

Sami comes from an athletic family. Her parents Cindy and Pe’a were college athletes. Her younger sisters, Kodi and Abbi, also played water polo at UCLA, and her brother Deacon is currently playing football at the University of Iowa.

The 2023 Hall of Fame class includes Alex Mack (San Marcos High), Sami Hill (Dos Pueblos), Paula Charest Lilly (Bishop Diego) and Jenna Ridgway Corliss (San Marcos) being honored for their achievements as athletes; Greg Patton, a Bishop Diego and UCSB alum, recognized for his remarkable coaching career; San Marcos alum Harvey Bottlesen, who founded the Santa Barbara Tennis Club, is the community leader, and journalist John Zant, a UCSB alum, is being inducted for his seven decades of providing quality sports writing for the community.

The SBART is also honoring one its founders, 96-year-old Bill Bertka. He is a L.A. Lakers legend, having been a part of 10 championship teams as an assistant coach and consultant.

The SBART Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. Tickets can be purchased at this link.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.