Mundelein is knocking on door in North Suburban
The door is ready to be opened.
Question is, will Stevenson's boys water polo team allow it?
Mundelein and coach Russ Gates have been knocking on the door the last couple of years in Lake County and this spring aspire to capture another 20 wins.
The Mustangs, ranked 13th in the illpolo.com preseason poll, lost several key starters but return junior all-stater Danny Oleinik, who scored 120 goals, dished out 27 assists, and had 58 steals to lead the offense last year.
"We're looking for Danny to be our overall stats leader in terms of offense as well as defense," Gates said. "He's going to be a big part of our team and has been training all summer and fall with his club team."
Oleinik serves as the team captain, while junior Cale Sethna is also ready to step up his roll this year as a starter. Junior keeper Andrew Hall will fill the vacancy left by Logan Bradshaw. Charlie Dennis also looks to provide a spark on offense for the Mustangs.
"We graduated one of the fastest teams on school history, so our style will be a little different this year," Gates said. "We'll play more possession ball and make the most out of every single opportunity we have."
Mundelein won its own and Palatine tournaments last year, while finishing second in the North Suburban Conference behind Stevenson.
Stevenson is also the reigning sectional champion, but the Patriots have a bad taste in their mouths after a last-second loss to eventual state champ Naperville Central in last year's state quarterfinals.
"We were very young last year and fell just short of a championship," said coach Sean Wimer, whose Patriots finished 23-11 overall. "We're looking to be the best team that we can be."
Just about everyone returns for Stevenson. Juniors Dima Kobets (135 goals, 53 assists) and Drew Wangard (63 goals, 24 assists) are back to lead a potent offense. Junior keeper Alex Mitchell (7 goals-allowed average, 242 saves) returns to anchor the defense. Other Patriots who will start or see significant time include senior Mark Holzer and juniors Nate Pedigo, Grant Huey, Nathan Mossman, Sammy Maya, David Gorin, Jeffrey Mao, Evan Engel and Hemsith Seneviratne.
Numbers keep growing for Vernon Hills, which went from 20 to 34 player who tried out this spring.
"We have a super strong senior class and we've added a bunch of new [players] that we're really excited about," said coach Adam Lueken, whose Cougars finished 3-13 overall and 1-3 in the Central Suburban North last season.
Vernon Hills' returning senior starters include leading scorer/hole offense Remi Boes and drivers Russ Khamdulaev, Steven Hart, Preston Li and Dennis Zaslavsky.
"We're also adding some speed and awareness with sophomores Ben Ravenscraft and Arjuna Vimalarja," Lueken said. "And our defense will be centered around Zaslavsky and Chris Randall."
The numbers have also skyrocketed for Libertyville, which saw almost 50 players try out this spring.
"That's the largest in my tenure," Wildcats fourth-year coach Kara Bosman said. "We're looking to continue building and try and improve on last season."
Libertyville's returning starters include senior keeper Ben Kistler, senior Andrew Bacilek and juniors Mitch Madland, Sam Otto and Simon Amyot.
"This group is passionate, gritty, and they play as one," said Bosman, whose Wildcats finished 15-15 overall before losing to McHenry in double-overtime in the sectionals a year ago. "We are excited to see our senior leaders step up, our talented junior class perform, and to have a few new underclassmen join varsity."
Libertyville will also be playing its first season in its new pool.
"We have a lot of individual talent and will be competitive with our entire schedule when we play as a team," Bosman said.
Warren is in its fourth year of existence and has come a long way. The Blue Devils won 8 games a year ago and finished 1-3 in the NSC.
Returning senior starters for fourth-year coach Brian Esposito include Riley Nebel and Joemil Duka.
Players to watch/newcomers
Libertyville -- Simon Amyot (Jr.), Andrew Bacilek (Sr.), Ben Kistler (Sr. G), Mitch Madland (Jr.), Sam Otto (Jr.); Mundelein -- Charlie Dennis, Andrew Hall (Jr.), Danny Oleinik (Jr.), Jacob Philbrick (Sr.), Ethan Casler (Jr.), Max Kushnyrik (Jr.), Cale Sethna (Jr.); Stevenson -- Evan Engel (Jr.), David Gorin (Jr.), Mark Holzer (Sr.), Grant Huey (Jr.), Dima Kobets (Jr.), Angelo Koutsogeorgas (So.), Jeffrey Mao (Jr.), Sammy Maya (Jr.), Alex Mitchell (Jr. G), Nathan Mossman (Jr.), Nate Pedigo (Jr.), Hemsith Seneviratne (Jr.), Sully Swanson (So.), Drew Wangard (Jr.), Jacob Whiting (So.); Warren -- Joemil Duka (Sr.), Riley Nebel (Sr.); Vernon Hills -- Remi Boes (Sr.), Steven Hart (Sr.), Russ Khamdulaev (Sr.), Preston Li (Sr.), Dennis Zaslavsky (Sr.)