Girls water polo: Conant dumps Buffalo Grove for MSL title
As Conant girls water polo coach Justin Bickus got his team ready to play Buffalo Grove for Wednesday's Mid-Suburban League girls water polo title match, he was looking ahead to the tall task of not only facing a Bison squad that made the transformation of a unit that captured the MSL's East crown after having finished fourth the year before but also the challenge of having to score goals past all-conference goaltender Shanelle Cadle.
Aside from that, Conant was looking to win its third straight MSL title which would place it among four other varsity programs (boys or girls) in the school's 55-year history of having achieved such a feat.
Fortunately, for Bickus and his team it successfully met those challenges as it posted a 13-7 win to earn the three-peat.
"Unbelievable," Bickus said. "My girls said it best. They're (Buffalo Grove) playing hard and we gotta be ready. They just came out gunning."
It became a necessity for Conant (27-2) as the Cougars trailed 3-2 just 92 seconds into period two on the first of Buffalo Grove senior Cecilia Carlson's 3 goals. Cougars all-conference selections Olivia Olszewski and Sydney Arnold would tally twice to keep them ahead for good 5-3 at the break.
After Carlson connected for the second time to pull the Bison (20-5-1) within 5-4 at the 5:24 mark of the third, back-to-back goals by Sarah Erne followed by one from fellow senior Ashvi Palkhiwala opened up an 8-4 advantage. The Bison would get no closer than two the rest of the way as a 4-0 run that Olszewski capped off with her fourth score on the evening made it 12-6 with 2:31 remaining.
"She has a hard shot to stop," Bickus said.
Olszewski credited her teammates' effort as she held the conference trophy during the many team photos taken afterward.
"It was a game where the girls stepped up and it really proved in the score," Olszewski said.
She also paid homage to the program's culture that has served as the foundation for success.
"It's just the older girls showing the younger girls in keeping the tradition going," Olszewski said.
Both head coaches acknowledged Cadle's championship game performance as the Bison senior had 16 saves tending net.
"She played outstanding," Bickus said. "I was watching her warm up and she kind of got in their heads a little bit during the first half."
"She's very talented," Buffalo Grove coach Michael McPartlin said. "She's put in so much work this season. In every single practice, she's looking to get better."
McPartlin also reflected on his squad's turnaround from a 12-win season to reaching the MSL title match.
"I'm so proud of the way this team has come along this season," he said. "For us to get into the pool with Conant; you gotta tip your hat to them and how well they set up on offense. They're a very talented team."