Three-time defending state champ Stevenson reloading
With a new girls water polo season upon us, Stevenson looks to be the team to beat again.
The preseason top-ranked Patriots return to the pool as the defending North Suburban Conference, sectional and state champs. They have won three state titles in a row and four in five years.
"We will see which athletes step up," said coach Jeff Wimer, whose Patriots went 36-0 last spring. "We are not rebuilding from such a talented group of girls. We'll just be reloading."
It's been just about two years to the day since Stevenson lost a match, which translates to a 69-game winning streak. Stevenson graduated five starters, four of whom were all-state. Three -- utility Lauren Maloney (first team), goalie Anna Mossakowski (fifth team) and utility Eleanor Michaud (honorable mention) -- were named National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American.
But plenty of firepower returns, including junior attackers Shreya Sreedhar and Maddy O'Donnell, along with a solid core of experienced athletes. Last year, Sreedhar scored 62 goals and dished out 34 assists, while O'Donnell popped in 16 goals and 32 assists to lead a balanced offense.
Seniors Alena Bardic, Hanna Cloeter, Val Zlotnikova, Maddie Meirhaege and Alex Osmond also provide experience for the Patriots.
For Mundelein, the vision is to make it to the state finals, a place where it has come up just one game short from the past three years.
"We're a young team with only two seniors, but this group is determined to improve from last year," said coach Mike Vukovics, whose Mustangs went 20-11 overall and 2-2 in the NSC last spring.
Key returning players include senior starting goalie Hannah Stanley and senior attacker Sydney Bradshaw.
"Both will be playing big roles as leaders in the pool," said Vukovics, whose girls are ranked No. 15 in the illpolo.com preseason poll.
Other returning players for Mundelein to keep an eye on offensively include juniors Jennifer Lopez, Lauren Carlson, Sarah Larson and Jackie Spencer, and sophomore Lauren Geary.
"We're young but we have a lot of speed, great work ethic, and know what it will take to be successful," Vukovics said.
Libertyville graduated its starting goalie and defensive whole set. But attackers Cate McCarty and Anna Heard are back for the Wildcats, who look to improve on their 11-16 (1-3 NSC) record.
"They're back and ready to generate some offense," coach Tracy Balla said. "We're also very excited about the large crop of freshmen that are coming out for the team this year. They're eager and have been taking advantage of open pool opportunities and playing with some of the returning students to get some experience before the season starts."
Angie Becker will start in goal and Libertyville's new defensive whole set Julia Fryear has been looking strong, according to Balla.
Heading into its fourth year as a program, Warren looks to improve on a 6-16 record.
"We're excited to keep up the momentum from last year," coach Sarah Zink said.
The Blue Devils' offense will be anchored by returning seniors Anna Erpenbeck and Jordan Elkington, and junior Jessica Oehlerking. Warren also boasts two strong keepers in seniors Nicole Terzian and Claire Alonso.
After a winless 2019 season, Vernon Hills and second-year coach Katie Ahlgrim are ready to go with five seniors returning.
Players to watch/newcomers
Libertyville -- Anna Heard (Sr.), Cate McCarty (Sr.), Angie Becker (Jr.), Julia Fryear (Jr.); Mundelein -- Ella Fidanze (Jr.), Megan Gusstafson (Jr.), Evelyn Kajohn (Jr.), Emily Slezberg (So.), Maggie Russ (So.); Stevenson -- Maggie Bauwens (Jr.), Anna Gates (Jr.), Maria Mossakowski (Jr.), Liz Matlin (Jr.), Kayla Wadsworth (Jr.), Yachi Patel, Elizabeth White (So.); Vernon Hills -- Steph Chang (Sr. goalie), Allie Pappas (Sr.), Caroline Ewing (Sr.), Kim Zhou (Sr.), Katelyn Kries (Jr.), Alyssa Olivia (Jr.), Zosia Okinczyc (Jr.); Warren -- Anna Erpenbeck (Sr.), Jordan Elkinton (Sr.), Jessica Oehlerking (Jr.), Nicole Terzian (Sr.), Claire Alonso (Sr.)