Girls water polo: Conant confident it can play with New Trier
When the Conant girls water polo team faces New Trier in the state quarterfinals at Stevenson Thursday, the Cougars will face a formidable opponent. But, so will the Trevians.
"We have not played New Trier this year," said Conant coach Justin Bickus. "We've seen film so I have an idea of what they like to do. They play very physical defense and are well-coached. We are looking forward to the challenge."
The Cougars have not made it past the quarterfinals in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Conant's closest chance was an overtime loss to Lyons Township in 2015. That year the Cougars' Carmen Rosas (Brown University) set the school record for goals with 162.
Conant set the school record this season with a 31-2 mark, bettering 2015 when the Cougars were 29-4 and last year's 29-5 team.
Senior Olivia Olszewski, who has scored 155 goals, could break the school record over the weekend. Olszewski, the team captain who will continue playing at The Coast Guard, has also recorded 113 steals.
Junior Sydney Arnold has scored 93 goals this year, more than doubling last year's output. Arnold leads the team with 146 steals.
Gabi Konieczny, who is also a team captain, is a top defender yet she scored 25 goals to go with 48 steals. A backup player last season, Konieczny earned a starting spot this year.
Abigail Hanley, another junior who is a tri-captain and a defensive standout, has scored 29 goals to go with 36 steals.
Sam and Sarah Erne were reserves last year also but earned the right to be starters this year. Sarah Erne has scored 28 goals and snatched 78 steals. Sam Erne has scored 16 times to go with 50 steals.
The Cougars use a two-goalie tandem in sophomores Nicole Fisch (110 saves) and Sam Henry (135 saves).
"This group has been interesting to work with," said Bickus. "Last year we graduated four seniors and people didn't think we could be as good as last year's team. The girls who took their place really stepped up. They know how to keep loose. When we won the Palatine Invite in April, which we never have won, they decided to do a 'crazy hat' day that they didn't tell me about. When we practice they like to listen to the song Stress by Justice. It's like a rallying point for them."
Bickus understands the season can be a grind but feels that the Cougars, with their experience and determination, can come up with a good showing against the Trevians. Should Conant come out with the win Thursday it would advance to the Saturday semifinals against the winner of the Naperville North vs. Lincoln-Way Central quarterfinal.