Boys water polo: Conant has sites set on another state trip
The teams to beat in Mid-Suburban League boys water polo a year ago are the same ones to beat in 2020.
That's the consensus of coaches heading into what looks to be another season loaded with strong polo play in the MSL.
Defending MSL champion and undefeated West champion Conant is fresh off a state finals appearance and returns seniors Aaron Nagorzanski (goalie), Spencer Urban (attack), Konrad Sak (defender) and Sam Gosche (utility), along with juniors Noah Lawson (center) and Filip Dabrowski (center defender). Lawson was an all-state, all-sectional and all-MSL pick, while Nagorzanski was all-sectional and all-conference and Urban earned all-sectional honors.
"The team is very diverse with shooters on both sides of the offense," Conant coach Tim Daniel said. "We have also built a solid foundation as a defensive-minded team that should allow us to be competitive in all games. This team has a strong culture that fosters success. We need to make sure our veterans lead our younger players to embrace our standards and team culture to add to our success. If we pursue our own standards, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."
Daniel, whose team went 29-5 last year, said the goal is unwavering for the Cougars. "The standard is the same every year," he said. "We expect to compete for a sectional title at the end of the season, every year."
On the other side of the MSL, Hersey went 21-11 a year ago, won the East title and lost to Daniel's Conant squad in the MSL title game.
Coach Marc Popovici returns seniors Misha Nikiforov (utility), Spencer Burkhalter (utility), Danny Pollina (utility) and Scott Kaiser (goalie). Keep an eye on sophomore utility player Jack Wojtowicz. Nikiforov and Burkhalter were all-sectional and all-MSL in 2019. Burkhalter broke the school steals in a season (166), assists in a game (9) and assists in a season (68) records, while Nikiforov is on pace to become a Top 3 goal scorer on program history, "and if he plays like we expect him to, he could become the new all-time goal scorer for Hersey," Popovici noted.
Popovici said his team his fired up to achieve its goals. "Our team's strength is each guy on this team," he said. "We have a great group of guys that are hungry to repeat as East champs. They want the conference championship and they want sectionals. The work ethic and drive are there. I think we will surprise a lot of people."
Popovici feels Buffalo Grove will pose a key threat to the Huskies with Elk Grove potentially opening some eyes.
The Bison went 19-10 last year and took second in the East. Aidan Nix and Luke Naughton are experienced seniors returning with Naughton in goal and Nix having the ability to fill a number of roles.
Buffalo Grove's junior group is led by Alex Santiago and Tommy Tsiftilis. "We are trying to win the East, finish the season with the best possible record to put us in a position to reach the sectional championship game," coach Scott Kopecky said.
Elk Grove won 15 games last year and returns a host of players, including senior all-conference performer Paolo Losacco (utility).
"We are trying to minimize turnovers and trying to get our record over .500 this season," Grens coach Mike Nauert said.
Another team to watch in the East, noted one MSL coach, is Prospect, which is under the direction of new coach Brian Esposito. The Knights, who won 9 games last year and went 5-5 in the East, return seniors Kacper Surlas, Caleb Kosinsik and Keaton Malone.
"We are a young team that is very adaptable, and each game we will be able to employ a new set to determine our optimal strengths," Esposito said. "We need to learn and grow as a team. We have great upperclassmen leadership to go along with a great group of incoming players. We need to focus on playing as a team and controlling the pace of the game. We are looking to push toward the top of the conference as the season goes on."
Wheeling returns junior all-conference player Leonadis Monaxios, along with senior Sebastian Krol and sophomore Artur Demyanyk. "Leo and Artur are great drivers and will be the key to our offense," coach Bob Savitt said. "Sebastian is looking really good in goal. We hope to play lockdown defense and that will lead to our counterattack."
Barrington finished second in the West to Conant and third overall in the league. Coach Rob Emray, whose team went 19-8 last year, welcomes back seniors Aidan Roth (driver), Charlie Farmer (driver), Jack Streeter (driver), Dan Emray (utility) and Marcus Karasinski (2m defender), along with junior driver Lincoln Mohr. Roth was all-MSL as a junior.
"Our strength will be our ability to play together," said Emray, whose team lost six seniors from last year's team. "These guys have been playing together since middle school and they know each other well. They have a good feel for how they can play their best games together as a unit, and not just one-on-one play."
Fremd, 18-13 a year ago, is heavy on returning senior players with Sean Warner (utility), Ridgden Astatsang (utility), Russell Beaupre (utility), Sashwat Viswanath (goalie), Brandon Vera (center defender), James Steininger (center), Justin Glab (utility) and Kevin Han (center).
"On the West side, you have Conant, the defending MSL champions, Barrington always is in the running, Palatine is up-and-coming, and I hope we are in the mix of things," Vikings coach Brian Newby said.
Schaumburg won 3 games last year and returns a junior-heavy lineup with Matthew Reitmajer (center defender), Caleb Whelan (driver), Maciej Waldzinski (center) and Joe Sternbauer (goalie).
Elsewhere, Maine East returns senior goalie Charlie Foersterling and junior wing Sam Adelman from a team that went 14-14 and finished third in the CSL.