Girls water polo: Naperville Central spreads the fun around
Naperville Central has had girls water polo teams on which the scoring has been dominated by one or two players.
This year's edition is not one of those teams.
Six girls scored in Wednesday's 16-3 rout of visiting Sandburg, led by junior Emma Guccione's 6 goals and 5 by senior Jodie Nelson. A week before the sectional begins, Nelson leads the Redhawks (20-7) with 59 goals, Guccione has 53, Emily Wagner 47 and Sophia Bleuher 43.
"We've never had this kind of scoring balance," longtime Redhawks coach Jeff Plackett said. "It's giving some of the younger girls an opportunity because if you look at our roster, we're really sophomore heavy, so if we had that one person, like a (Rylee) Brower a year ago where it's feed them the ball, feed them the ball, feed them the ball, while these girls that we're trying to teach over the course of the season, how do they learn how to score? How do they learn how to move in the water if the whole game plan is get the ball to this one person and let's see what they can do?
"Now we can point statistically to season totals and go, you have to be involved in the whole offense if you want to score goals with this group."
Playing a difficult schedule, the Redhawks have seen improvement in other areas too.
"The main thing we're improving on is our pressure passing, shooting from the outside," Nelson said. "As of right now I think we're pretty good at our communication and knowing where we are in the pool."
Added Guccione: "I think our counter attacks have gotten a lot better throughout the season. Our goalie, Maria (Gabrielli), she has been really working hard on her passes up the pool. One of the strengths of the team is our speed, so if we're able to get out in front of the defender and then we're able to get a pass from the goalie, it really helps us get in front of the other team. And then finishing our counter attacks really helps us get out in front of other teams."
The Redhawks got out in front of the Eagles often. Wagner added 2 goals, and Bleuher, Maggie Toennis and Ella Brophy scored 1 apiece.
While it was fun to pile up the goals, especially with the Redhawks boys watching before their game vs. Sandburg, Nelson and Guccione insist they enjoy suspenseful games.
"Actually, we kind of prefer our close games," Nelson said. "It keeps our energy up."
The Naperville Central boys water polo team also beat Sandburg, this time 12-5. Luke Klein-Collins led the Redhawks with 5 goals, and Liam Bleuher and Bender Russo scored 2 apiece for the defending state champs.