This Stevenson family is all in on water polo, and they’re ready for a pair of deep playoff runs

Abraham Lincoln got it wrong.

A house divided against itself can stand.

Behold the Kusevskis water polo household in Buffalo Grove.

“There’s a goalkeepers camp at home, as well as a field players camp,” said patriarch and master jeweler Mike Kusevskis, a former Mundelein High School club water polo goalkeeper who now serves as a volunteer goalkeepers coach at Stevenson.

He married former Fenwick polo field player and current Stevenson boys water polo assistant coach Brigitte Bayster Kusevskis more than 20 years ago. Their 6-foot-5, 240-pound son, Olin — a water polo-cap wearing Aquaman, minus the dark beard and flowing locks — is Stevenson’s dominant senior center, and their 5-8 daughter, Elsa, is an avid and burgeoning sophomore goalkeeper for Stevenson’s 29-1-1 girls water polo team.

“Sometimes there’s banter between our family’s goalies and field players when we’re together,” said Brigitte Kusevskis, who’s also the dean of students at Woodlands Academy in Lake Forest.

But the exchanges never escalate from fun to fiery.

“We’re a tight-knit family,” Mike said.

And drenched with water polo success. U.S. Air Force Academy-bound Olin Kusevskis played for the Patriots’ state championship team as a freshman in 2021 and has amassed 116 goals (4 per game) and 54 exclusions drawn for this year’s 20-8-1 squad, which, like the Patriots’ girls water polo team, was scheduled to compete in a sectional semifinal Friday at Highland Park.

Elsa Kusevskis — a polo player for only a year and a half — has stopped nearly 70% of the shots she’s faced this spring.

“Elsa makes her own decisions,” Elsa’s dad said. “Elsa wanted to focus on swimming in grade school. When she told me she wanted to play high school water polo but only as a goalie, I lit up.”

Mike, who stands 6-4, and Brigitte, who played polo at Villanova and also coached the sport at Fenwick and Palatine, were teammates on an adult water polo club team before the start of their courtship. A teammate of theirs was 2001 Stevenson graduate and current Stevenson boys water polo coach Sean Wimer, who guided the Patriots to state titles in 2017 and ’21.

“Mike was fearless in the water and a great goalie,” said Wimer, the son of five-time state championship coach Jeff Wimer, who has been coaching girls water polo at Stevenson since 1998. “It was like having two full layers of defense with Mike in goal. Brigitte was a feisty utility player, an outstanding attacker, and she was as tough as nails all over the pool.

“Brigitte,” he added, “never gave an inch.”

Brigitte initially didn’t like the outlet passes she had to field from her future husband.

“They got better,” she said with a smile.

Mr. and Mrs. Kusevskis battled together at senior water polo tournaments for 12 years and hung up their polo caps in 2012.

“Mike, in the water, was absolutely fierce,” Brigitte recalled. “Out of it he’s calm and a true gentleman.”

Mom and Dad would love nothing more than to coach and root for their kids at Stevenson from May 16-18, the dates of the boys and girls water polo state finals in Lincolnshire. Last year, Elsa, the program’s JV keeper, got promoted to varsity after the regular season and watched All-State goalie Katie Delaney (now at Michigan) help the Pats (35-1) capture their fifth state championship with an 11-5 defeat of Mother McAuley.

“I loved water polo right away,” Elsa Kusevskis said. “Midway through my freshman season, I asked (Jeff Wimer) if I could attend the varsity’s morning practices. He let me. Those were awesome. I wanted to observe and learn as much as possible.

“I’m still learning.”

Visitors to the Kusevskis house wouldn’t discover the family’s perpetual passion for polo until they checked out the basement.

“That’s where you’d find a few deflated polo balls,” said Olin Kusevskis, whose combination of polo acumen and imposing presence often shrinks the spirit of those who guard him.

The Kusevskis family’s biggest fans are Jeff and Sean Wimer.

“What makes them phenomenal is their commitment to the sport,” Jeff Wimer said.

“The parents and the kids,” Sean Wimer said, “are great people — it’s that simple. They’re not just a family of athletes; they’re also kind, generous people.”

It’s a Sunday evening, dinnertime at the Kusevskis’ house. Four mouths water. Utensils clank. A conversation starts, but it has nothing to do with water polo.

“We use that time to talk about what else is going on in our lives,” said Mike, an ace cook. “It’s a wonderful time. We look forward to that time together every week.”

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