Boys water polo: Scouting the MSL championship
Hersey (13-14) at Conant (23-3)
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Outlook: Conant is having a remarkable season. After an early loss to Fremd, the Cougars went unbeaten for the remainder of conference play to finish 9-1 against Mid-Suburban League foes. They won their own tournament last weekend and are fulfilling the promise coach Tim Daniel saw for his team prior to the season. What makes Conant so difficult for opponents is its ability to recognize and exploit specific weaknesses in its foes, which explains why any number of scorers -- Jon Burke, Kyle Bradberry, Devin Schmitz, Connor Schmitz, Matt Engebretsen -- can lead them in any given match. Goalie Aly Ahmed is also a cut above, and Conant's most pronounced area of improvement in the season's latter stages has been defense. Hersey coach Dick Mortensen's team has its work cut out, but the Huskies have shown a knack for playing well under pressure after earning a spot in the title game for the first time. They finished 9-1 against MSL East foes and have terrific size and toughness throughout the lineup. Juniors George Vladimirov, Jack Carroll and Connor Reynolds typically are among the scoring leaders, and Mortensen has had goalies Jamey Hill and J Maxwell sharing deep-water goal duties.
Looking ahead: Conant has earned the No. 1 seed in next week's Fremd sectional. Fremd is No. 2, followed by Hoffman Estates and Hersey. Palatine is the No. 3 seed in the Mundelein sectional, behind Stevenson and Lake Forest, and Buffalo Grove is No. 6.
-- Aaron Gabriel