Newport Harbor High's Avery Peterson has committed to play for USC.

Newport Harbor High's Avery Peterson has committed to play for USC. (Kent Treptow / October 9, 2012)

Newport Harbor High senior girls' water polo player Avery Peterson has verbally committed to USC, she said Tuesday night.

"I really like the program because of the amount of coaching that's available," she said. "And I loved the team, I love the school, everything about it pretty much ... I wanted to stay close to home."

Peterson is a valuable defender and all-around threat for the Sailors. Last year, she was a key contributor as Newport Harbor won the Sunset League and captured the program's fifth CIF Southern Section Division 1 title.

She was a second-team all-league and second-team All-CIF selection, finishing the year with 47 goals and a team-high 58 steals. She was also a Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection, one of four slated to come back for the Sailors this winter.

"It's really exciting having so many girls who started last year returning," Peterson said. "We've been working really hard."

Peterson, whose older sister Allyssa played a year at Cal, said her final choice for college came down to USC and San Diego State. She can sign her national letter of intent with the Trojans as early as Nov. 14.

Last year USC had four former Newport Harbor players on its roster, including sophomore center Kaleigh Gilchrist, who led the team with 47 goals.

— Matt Szabo