Girls water polo: MSL looks to be up for grabs
Parity seems to be the name of the game when it comes to Mid-Suburban League girls water polo this spring.
League coaches feel any of a number of teams could find themselves in the upper echelon of the East and West divisions, thus making each loop game that more significant.
"I think there will be a really wide-open division and conference/sectional race," Conant coach Justin Bickus said. "Many of the teams have strong returning players and the level of play improves each year. Our goal is to hopefully be playing our best water polo late in the season and play in some championship games come May."
Barrington coach Mark Markwell added: "The MSL has many talented teams and great coaches. Every year, our conference gets stronger and better. The field is wide open. There always are perennial favorites that continue to produce quality seasons."
Elk Grove coach Jason Spjuth chimed in: "At the start of the season I see a lot more (parity). I feel that BG, Hersey and Prospect will all be at the top early on, but I expect us to start to challenge those teams as we move deeper into the season. I also think that Wheeling will surprise some people and put together a nice season."
Conant would be one of those favorites in the West. The Cougars won the overall MSL title last year and finished 31-3 overall en route to a state quarterfinals berth. This year's squad is powered by returning senior starters Sydney Arnold (utlity-driver), Abigail Hanley (utility-2MD) and Sam Erne (utility), along with returning junior starters Nicole Fisch (goalie) and Sam Henry (goalie). Arnold was all-state, all-sectional and all-MSL, and will continue her career at Sienna in New York. She scored 95 goals a year ago.
"Our biggest strength is our overall passion for the sport that the girls have and the drive and dedication to work toward their goals," Bickus said. "The girls on the team love playing water polo and love competing."
Barrington won 9 games, but returns a hefty amount of talent in seniors Maddie Case (goalie), Maggie Guo (field), Hanna Hissa (field), Dana Love (field), Ingrid Pallan (2MD), Samantha Pashkow (field), Haley Reyna (field) and Hailey Schmidts (field).
Fremd won 22 games and took second in the West a year ago. Senior attackers Sophia Kuehn and Abby Dannenbring are back, as is junior goalie Samantha Prigge. Kuehn was all-MSL a year ago. "I feel the team is very versatile and has many players who can play almost any position," Vikings coach Ray Roth said. "We will continue to make defense a priority and as the season progresses, build on team chemistry to further develop the depth of the offense."
Katie Chapek-Segal, Elena Arias and Jenni Alvarez return for Hoffman Estates. "All three are extremely versatile and excited to lead the team as seniors," Hawks coach Tegan Boland said. "This year we have a younger group of athletes excited to build over the next couple years. We are looking to lay the groundwork for the next three years. In order to have a successful year we want to work together as a team and operate as one."
Buffalo Grove shared the East title with Hersey, took second overall in the MSL and finished 21-6-1. Seniors Emma Steinke (goalie) and Caitlyn Conroy (driver) and juniors Gabriela Surdyka (wing) and Stefanie Surdyka (wing) lead the way for the Bison. "The girls are extremely motivated to improve and surpass the mark set by last year's record-setting group," coach Mike McPartlin said. "We have a young team comprised mostly of juniors and sophomores, so most of them are ready to take the next step."
The Huskies went 22-7 and coach Meg Brownley welcomes back senior center Hope Fenwick and junior attack Annie Lindgren from that group. Lindgren was an all-state, all-sectional and all-MSL selection as a sophomore after scoring 65 goals to go with 27 assists, 87 steals and 35 KO drawn -- all team leads. Fenwick found the net 60 times.
"We are committed," Brownley said. "This group is passionate about Hersey water polo and is willing to do what it takes to improve themselves and each other in practice. They are an amazing group of young ladies that I am very proud of and excited to coach this season."
Elk Grove, 14-14 in 2019, also is senior-heavy in the experience department with 12th graders Rachel Ford (point), Evita Ferrari (driver), Sarah McNamara (wing), Angie Mena (utility), Paulina Kusion (goalie) and Nicole Kozbiel (goalie). Ford had 48 goals and 37 steals, while Ferrari had 25 goals and 27 steals, and Mena had 23 goals and 37 steals.
Wheeling (7-15 in 2019) returns seniors Riley Bialas (utility), Amber Akhter (2MD) and Estephania Diaz (2MO) and junior Nicole Golden (wing). Bialas was an all-sectional pick last year and finished with 107 steals. Diaz had 59 goals.
New Prospect coach Meg Dix takes over a team that was third in the East last season and features seniors Caitlin Broz (wing) and Maggie Penner (goalie), junior Caitlin Bauer (wing) and sophomores Nora Wagner (wing) and Maddy Connolly (center). Broz is the team's top returning scorer. "The girls are extremely eager to learn and play at a higher caliber," Dix said. "We have a very fast team and a deep bench."
Rolling Meadows returns senior Abby Wiltse (driver), and juniors Sammi France (wing) and Julia Zera (goalie).
In the Central Suburban League, Maine West won the CSL North and won 22 matches overall. Seniors Meg Casiple (goalie), Jacky Miranda (driver), Lindsy Brito (driver) and Nikki Niedzielski (defender), along with junior Olivia Loewes (center) and sophomores Emily Piocchiotti (utility) and Alyssa Harrison (driver) power the Warriors.
Maine East went 19-9 and took second in the North Division at 4-1. Seniors Chrisavgi Kotsifas (driver), Sophia Learnahan (driver) and Alyssa Krug (goalie) are back, as is junior Jordan Oslowski (set). Kotsifas was all-state last year.