The girls on Westlake High School’s water polo team played Thursday’s match with a little extra ferocity in memory of their former teammate Veronika Weiss, who died in a mass shooting near UC Santa Barbara last May.
The 2013 graduate was killed in the Isla Vista shooting that left seven dead, including the gunman, and 13 others hurt.
The high school team retired 19-year-old Weiss' number 11 in her honor and presented a commemorative plaque to her family.
"I think it’s a really good way to remember her, because I couldn’t see anybody else wearing the number 11," water polo player Audrey Briers said.
Coach Stephanie Barlev said Weiss was the most tenacious player she’s ever seen, and that her legacy continues to inspire her.
"I’ve made it my mission to not win games or to break records, but to play like Veronika did," Barlev said.
The team wrote the number 11 on their arms for Thursday's match as they remember the girl with the determined spirit and infectious laugh.
Former coach Todd Irmas remembers Weiss as his daughter's best friend who spent Friday nights having pizza at his house.
"My wife and I could always hear them laughing," Irmas said. "We heard Veronika's laugh most of all. It was the loudest, most obnoxious, and it was the most infectious, and we miss that in our home."
Veronika's father, Bob Weiss remembered his daughter while fighting back tears.
"She did live every minute like it was her last minute," Bob Weiss said. "And when she played water polo, she played every game like it was her last game."
Bob Weiss worked tirelessly to pass bills to reduce gun violence that have since been signed into law. He said the absence in his life left by Veronika's death will be felt forever.
"You don't get over it, I think you just get used to it," Bob Weiss said. "You get used to the hole in your life that can never be filled. There's never going to be another Veronika."