Scouting DuPage County girls water polo
Top players: Grace Bergman, jr., Waubonsie Valley; Sophia Bleuher, jr., Naperville Central; Amelia Brennan, jr., Hinsdale South; Lilly Browder, sr., Hinsdale South; Katherine Carter, sr., Hinsdale South; Emily Cartwright, sr., Neuqua Valley; Caroline Collins, jr., Hinsdale South; Caroline Cottrill, sr., Neuqua Valley; Lainey Eckholm, sr., Naperville North; Elle Filipiak, so., Waubonsie Valley; Grace Fowler, sr., Hinsdale Central; Maria Gabrielli, sr., Naperville Central; Katrina Geiersbach, jr., Hinsdale Central; Rebecca Gray, sr., Neuqua Valley; Emma Guccione, sr., Naperville Central; Claire Jansen, so., Naperville North; Rose Jensen, fr., York; Jill Johnson, jr., Neuqua Valley; Micaela Johnson, jr., Neuqua Valley; Mikaela Jopes, sr., York; Lillian Kloubec, sr., Hinsdale Central; Chloe Lapointe, sr., Hinsdale Central; Maria Lerena, jr., Waubonsie Valley; Leah Marty, sr., Metea Valley; Alexa Mehra, jr., Neuqua Valley; Aimee Patterson, sr., Metea Valley; Melanie Patterson, sr., Metea Valley; Grace Raquel, jr., Naperville North; Lucy Siwicki, sr., Metea Valley; Emma Stec, jr., York; Anna Tarantino, jr., Naperville North; Kayla Tingle, sr., Waubonsie Valley; Maggie Toennis, sr., Naperville Central; Moleigh Waldherr, sr., York.
Scouting report: Metea Valley has plenty of experience returning. The team hopes to improve upon a strong 2019 that saw it go 17-14 overall and reach a sectional semifinal. Senior Lucy Siwicki scored 64 goals last season and will be back in the lineup after she recovers from an injury. Also back is senior Melanie Patterson, who was the second-leading scorer last spring with 39 goals. Metea's experience is also boosted by seniors Leah Marty and Aimee Patterson. "We need to learn from our game experience. While many teams have players that have played in games all winter and learned from that, we don't. So we need to learn quickly. And we need to play well enough to be a sixth or better seed in the sectionals," said assistant coach Tom Musch.
It was another trip deep into the postseason in 2019 for Naperville Central. The team finished 24-9 and reached the sectional final. There's plenty of experience returning as the team hopes to improve upon last spring's success. That includes athletes that were high scorer in 18 of Naperville Central's matches. Senior Emma Guccione, an all-state selection, is back after scoring 66 goals and racking up 32 assists and 134 steals last spring. Junior Sophia Bleuher finished with 51 goals, and coach Jeff Plackett said she is already getting Division I college attention from the strong off-season she had. Senior Maria Gabrielli, an all-sectional pick last spring, is back for her third season in goal. Senior Maggie Toennis is another offensive weapon returning who racked up 22 goals as a junior.
Naperville North ended last season with some serious hardware, finishing second in state and 32-4 overall. Coach Andy McWhirter is confident that this year's team can also make a big postseason run. "We graduated just one senior, the main core is back and ready to find success," he said. Two all-state players return in junior Anna Tarantino and junior goalie Grace Raquel. Tarantino finished last season with 94 goals. Senior Lainey Eckholm was also crucial on offense scoring 48 goals as a junior. Further offensive power will come from sophomore Claire Jansen. "We start the season with some great matchups with many of the top teams in the state, which will a good test for the girls to test their resilience as a team," the Naperville North coach said.
Last season ended with Neuqua Valley winning a sectional first-round game despite a 4-27-1 record. Coach Jeff Davis said staying healthy and maximizing the team's skills is crucial to Neuqua improving this season. "And we need to develop a cohesiveness all-around," he said. The team will be led by seniors Rebecca Gray, Emily Cartwright and Caroline Cottrill along with juniors Micaela Johnson, Jill Johnson and Alexa Mehra.
Waubonsie Valley is optimistic it can build upon 2019's 9-21 record and sectional first-round defeat. "We're hoping to improve upon our record from a tough previous season, despite having a young varsity roster with over half being underclassmen," coach Joey Poletto said. Experience returns in senior Kayla Tingle, juniors Maria Lerena and Grace Bergman and sophomore Elle Filipiak. Poletto is also looking for contributions from freshman Alex Skurka. Senior Emma Taylor and sophomore Hannah Twaddell give Waubonsie depth at goalie.
Hinsdale Central reached the sectional quarterfinals last season and finished with a 14-15 record. Coach Christopher Ortiz is optimistic that Central can earn success in 2020. "Returning four people on the starting side is great for chemistry. The girls are familiar with each other's strengths and know how to play to them," he said. Top returning players are seniors Grace Fowler, Lillian Kloubec and goalie Chloe Lapointe and junior Katrina Geiersbach. "Katrina is our leading goal scorer for the last two years, so having her back is great on the offensive side. Chloe Lapointe is the backbone of our defense and her presence in the goal helps give confidence to the whole team," Ortiz said.
Hinsdale South coach Carrie Nelson said there are keys to her team improving upon last season's 5-17 record and sectional first-round loss. "We need to be more aggressive. We were young last year. We are a little more mature this year," she said. Leading the way for South will be seniors Lilly Browder and Katherine Carter, junior Caroline Collins and junior goalie Amelia Brennan. Browder will be key to the offense as she led the team in 2019 in shots on goal. Carter was second on the team in steals and Brennan had a 55 blocking percentage despite facing 418 shots which Nelson said was a very large amount and showed the defense must be better this year.
York returns key players that had a hand in a big spring in 2019. York finished 19-9 overall and beat Oak Park-River Forest in a sectional semifinal after the Huskies had beat them twice during the regular season. The team's leading scorer, Moleigh Waldherr, is back after racking 116 goals as a junior. Junior Emma Stec was the team's second-leading scorer with 50 goals. Coach Mark Giuliani said senior Mikaela Jopes' contributions will again be crucial to the Dukes' hopes and he said freshman Rose Jensen is capable of adding to York's potential. "This season we need to continue to focus on our counterattack. We have a lot of speed and we need to take advantage of that," Giuliani said.
-- D.J. Wanberg