Boys water polo: Conant downs Fremd to continue hot start

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/13/2019 9:05 PM

The Conant boys water polo team ended last season on a high note, participating in the final day of the state championships.

Now this year the Cougars are playing like they're determined to make a return to the state finals.

The Cougars improved to 6-0 Wednesday at Fremd as they built a big early lead and cruised to a 15-4 Mid-Suburban West win.

Conant won the fourth-place trophy at last year's state tourney, the first MSL team to take home hardware.

"Our goal and our philosophy right now is to come out and play our best regardless of who the opponent is," said Bryan Cho of the Cougars. "We play to our standards and we try to make the other team play to our standards.

"We start every game out at one-hundred percent," added Cho, "and we finish the game at one-hundred percent."

Conant was dominant at both ends of the pool in building a 9-1 halftime lead, but Fremd played much better after intermission.

"We made some mistakes tonight and a team like Conant will capitalize," said Vikings coach Brian Newby. "Against some other teams, you might be able to get away with those mistakes.

"Conant had a big second quarter, and at halftime we talked about cleaning things up. Let's start to see if we can bring back some points for ourselves and lower their scoring. You're not going to take anything away from Conant's ability but we can play better, and this will help us in the long run."

Fremd actually struck first with less than a minute gone in the contest as the Vikings got a goal from Russell Beaupre.

Then Alex Hirjoi, Justin Lim and Cho scored for Conant to give the Cougars a 3-1 advantage after one quarter.

Conant scored six more times in the second period led by 2 tallies each from Hirjoi and Cho.

"We just want to make sure we approach every single game this year the same way," said Conant senior Jake Lydon. "We're trying to do everything in our power to reach our goals."

The Cougars put the match away with 4 goals in the third stanza, while James Steninger and Rigden Atsatang scored for the Vikings.

Noah Lawson had 5 goals for Conant; Lydon tallied 5 assists; Hirjoi finished with 4 goals and 5 steals; Cho had 3 goals, while Mikey Bland scored twice.

Andrew Kini had the final goal of the game for Fremd, while Cougars goalkeeper Aaron Nagorzanski totaled 6 blocks.

"We have a big group coming back from last year," said Conant coach Tim Daniel, the IHSA coach of the year in 2018. "But we've made it very clear that this is a new season. We're not trying to defend anything or go back-to-back, we're just trying to add to the success that the program has had."

"For us last season's appearance at state was a very, very exciting moment," said Hirjoi. "It was a goal we had for a long time. Now, that motivates us for this year -- we want to get back and try to compete for first place."

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