Boys water polo: Scouting Northwest

 
 
Updated 3/14/2016 11:59 PM
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  • Fremd's Dylan Assmann battles Prospect's Tyler Culliton in a sectional quarterfinal matchup at Schaumburg last spring. Both players are back in action for their teams this season.

      Fremd's Dylan Assmann battles Prospect's Tyler Culliton in a sectional quarterfinal matchup at Schaumburg last spring. Both players are back in action for their teams this season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

BarringtonThe Broncos are coming off a season in which virtually every program record was bettered. Barrington finished up 27-3, winning the Mid-Suburban League championship and a sectional title for the program's first Elite Eight opportunity. The challenge, however, is maintaining that same level of achievement with a lineup that will look a lot different this year. "We lost all but one starter from last year's Elite Eight appearance," said coach Rob Emary, "so our returning players from last year's squad will have to get up to game speed at that level quickly for us to be able to compete for the MSL and sectional titles this year." Junior driver Mitch Gavars is back in action after last year's impressive run, and through the early going junior 2-meter offensive set John Fischer has been scoring steadily. Other top returners include goalie Jack Krieps, senior driver Tom Derken, senior 2-meter defender Kamil Jerominski and a junior drivers Scott Robinson and Colin O'Leary. Among the new varsity players are freshman drivers Steven Fischer and Sam Burrell, and sophomore driver Ryan Cremer. The results so far have been solid for the Broncos, who won three times in tournament action Saturday.

Buffalo GroveThe Bison finished 8-22 overall and 3-7 in the Mid-Suburban East, but have at least one key player back from that team in Ryan Lawson. He's led the team in scoring so far as Buffalo Grove is 1-1, with a victory against Latin and a loss against a strong Fremd quad. In the Bison's 12-3 victory over Latin, Lawson paced BG with 4 goals.

ConantThe Cougars had a terrific season last year, finishing 27-6 and placing second in the MSL West. Several key players are back from that team, but coach Tim Daniel also has a lineup which needs to have several spots settled. "There are a lot of new players, and early on in the season there will be a lot of opportunity for players to earn playing time and spots in the starting lineup," Daniel said. Among the proven players are senior attackers Mihir Patel, Braden Lamore and Vlad Hirjoi and senior utility man Tyler Goehrke. Candidates to grab starting spots include juniors Cory Pedro, Alec Burke, Taaha Adaamji and Alex Lawson and sophomores Ishan Patel and Harris Dibek. "Our goals remain the same," Daniel said. "The standard at Conant is to be playing for a sectional championship every year."

Elk GroveCoach Keith Kura is hoping continuity is a plus for this year's group. The Grenadiers have an abundance of experience and, according to their coach, a winning attitude to match. "We have a solid core that has played together for over a year," Kura said. "They come to practice every day looking to improve their understanding of the game and how to continue to grow and play together." Seniors Adam Doruff, Bart Strozik, David Dragne and goalie Cory Hicks are joined by experienced juniors Mike Pauls and Nick Rosenorn. Among the complementary players Kura will count on are senior Michael Banasik, junior John Noonan and sophomore Amar Patel. "Our goal is to play hard for 28 minutes every time we enter the water," said Kura, "and if you do that, we are confident good things will happen."

FremdThe Vikings earned a third-place finish in the MSL West last season, and there were plenty more positives. They were 13-9 overall and 8-4 overall against MSL foes. With the number of proven players back in action this season, it stands to reason that Fremd is hoping for even better this spring. "I think we would all say being in contention for the conference title is having a good season, and it is always a goal," said coach Brian Newby. "But having a better record than last year is the primary goal." Fremd is senior-heavy with standouts Alex Nicholas, Dylan Assmann and Robert DePau joined by classmates Nate Jordan, Zak Keper (goalie) and Ryan Dudar. There's plenty of depth with juniors Kenny Barry, Tarun Pothanker, Tony Lee and goalie Mitch Thompson; look for sophomores Derek Warnstedt, Daniel Konishi, Jack Provan and Alex Schillinger to have an impact as well. Newby also lists, among the program's goals, "making it to the sectional final game -- and the icing on the cake would be winning the conference title and sectional title, which would be a trip to the state tournament."

HerseyHersey will be starting from the goal and working out from there. Makes sense, considering goalie Sergey Smirnov is a returning all-conference and all-sectional standout. After that, coach Dick Mortensen will be experimenting with various players as the team is short on extensive varsity experience. Brian Prior and Kris Donov are two who have plenty, and Mortensen is looking to Patrick Kusnierz, Spencer Gorman, Conor Stanley, Andrew Maggie and Cris Maggio to step up for playing time. He also expects sophomores R.J. Quinn and James Lawrence to conribute regularly. "Sergey brings some stability in goal," Mortensen said. "He is a leader and knows how to win. I am hoping that this attitude contagiously effects the field players, but it may take some doing. There is a ton of opportunity to grow -- we just have to be ready for the challenge."

Hoffman EstatesCoach Kevin Kedzik is fighting the numbers game this season after losing a quality group of seniors following last spring. The Hawks had to drop their JV program due to a lack of players coming out for the team, and the varsity is thin on experience. The top returners are senior George Isaac, junior Andy Walsh and sophomores Mark Heitkotter and Eric Callisen. In Hoffman Estates' season opener, of the 11 players available, 6 were seeing their first game action. "We are a very young, inexperienced team," Kedzik said.

Maine WestLast year was a breakthrough season for the Warriors, who tied for the Central Suburban North title. Coach Robert Delaney is keeping that expectation the same, but he's mindful that it will take some development to get there. Senior 2-meter set Brendan Atwood and senior point/2-meter Adam Smolik-Valles are the key building blocks back from last year, and Delaney counts Ryan Panenka and Jesus Miranda among the promising new faces on varsity. "We lost some impact players," said Delaney, "yet we have some players who can play the game very well."

PalatineThe Pirates only lost three players from last year's group, but they were the team's cornerstones -- Ryan Schlaiss, Jacob Baran and Colin White. The good news for Palatine is that so many others got important varsity experience last year. Seniors Ivan Turkan, Marcus Carter-Buckman, Alex Adame and goalie Jake Conrad will be back in action, joined by juniors Dylan White and T.J. May. Among the promising players contributing full-time to the varsity are Sean O'Brien, Campbell Boston, Jerome Gabriel, Adam Smith, Drew Brown and Rares Maior. "I'm eager to see who steps up this year," said coach Joe Grzybek. "We had very little experience last year, but we made big improvements. I'm hoping we continue that right away this year."

ProspectThe Knights had a terrific run against their MSL East foes last year, compiling an 8-2 record in the division for a second-place finish. Coach Steve Grzybek will have a similar challenge this year for his team, as defending East champ Wheeling returns most of its key players from a season ago. But it's a case of so far, so good for the Knights. They topped a quality Schaumburg team 13-11 in their season opener, getting 6 goals from returning starter Isaac Ginnodo and another 3 from Alex Morikado. Prospect opens MSL East player Tuesday, with a contest against Rolling Meadows.

SchaumburgAfter saying farewell to a bunch of seniors from last year's fourth-place finisher in the Mid-Suburban West, the Saxons will start this year's effort relying heavily on two key holdovers from that team - seniors Tyler Gustafson (driver/2-meter) and standout goalie Edin Latic. Coach Adam Koschnitzke counts juniors Sam Thomas and Darius Lewis among the players showing promise - and even younger help may soon be on the way. "This is a rebuilding year for the Saxons, with graduating seven seniors the year before," Koschnitzke said. "But a lot of hope and talent is showing in the sophomore class stepping up and playing on varsity. Look for Schaumburg to be mixing it up in the MSL West."

St. ViatorSo far this spring, it's been a defensive game for the Lions. Michael Baker had a pair of goals in a 6-5 victory over St. Patrick as returning goalie Tim Bansfield stopped 9 shots. And in a 5-4 win earlier against Hersey, Dante Cerone score twice and Bansfield stopped 8 shots. The MCAC looks as tough as ever this spring, with St. Ignatius, Loyola and Brother Rice leading the way. St. Ignatius was ranked No. 5 in the preseason by illpolo.com but loss to Loyola 13-11 in tournament play Saturday at Homewood-Flossmoor.

WheelingThe Mid-Suburban East champs bring back three of the players responsible for last year's 10-0 run through the division and a sectional final appearance in seniors Nate Reiff (driver), Jake Noel (offensive and defensive 2-meter) and Kyle Noel (wing). Coach Rudy Means is aiming high again, saying he's "hoping to repeat as MSL East champs and make a push for the MSL championship." Reiff provides instant offense with terrific open-water moves and a tremendous shot, and is a relentless defender who forces turnovers with ease. The Noel brothers have continued to develop into first-rate players as well. "Nate Reiff is our leader and, in my opinion, one of the best players in the state," Means said. Two more seniors -- Jorge Figueroa (attacker/2-meter defense) and Jordan Butler (wing) are among the other keys for Wheeling. Means cautions that although there's reason for high hopes, this a group that will need to time to grow. "We are an older team, but many of the varsity players have not had varsity experience, so we are looking for them to step up this season and show off the skills they have learned in the past season."

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