High school sports dynasties: Girls No. 8, Stevenson water polo
Editor's note: The Daily Herald is counting down the Top 10 boys and girls high school sports dynasties over the past 20 years, two at a time. We continue today at No. 8 with Cary-Grove football and Stevenson girls water polo.
As a firefighter who served the Village of Skokie for more than three decades, Jeff Wimer understands the preciousness of life.
"That was reality," he said. "I've seen a lot over my years."
As a girls water polo coach who's racked up 673 wins, including 71 in a row with his three-time defending state champion Stevenson Patriots, Wimer also understands the importance of enjoying life and celebrating it.
He's done plenty of that with what he calls his "hobby" and "passion" -- water polo.
The retired fireman, along with his athletes, has made plenty of splashes. And soaked up "victory soaks" in state-meet pools.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the IHSA spring sports season, denying Stevenson the chance to pull off a "four-peat" at state, Wimer had perspective, though the news did douse his spirits.
"My heart is bleeding for my seniors," Wimer said when news broke of the spring sports shutdown. "I've had a pretty special group here."
Since the century started, Stevenson girls water polo has been a team on fire, winning four state championships in five years, with only Fenwick interrupting the Patriots' run in 2016. Only Fenwick has won more state titles (9) this century. When Stevenson went 36-0 last season, it marked its second undefeated campaign in five years. Wimer also coached Stevenson to a second-place finish at state in 2011 and thirds in 2008, 2014 and 2016.
The Patriots have piled up star players, too.
Allison Travetto (Class of 2016, Long Beach State) holds the state record with 612 career goals, including a state-record 226 as a senior. Claire Haas (Class of 2018, USC) earned first-team all-state honors three years in a row, was named Illinois player of the year twice and NISCA first-team All-American twice. Haas' 245 career assists are a state record. Melissa Gartenberg (Class of 2015) dished out a state-record 155 assists as a senior.
Last season's state champs featured a senior trio of first-team all-state selections in Lauren Maloney, Eleanor Michaud (Macalester) and goalie Anna Mossakowski (Siena). Senior attacker Kalista Tapas was named second-team all-state.
"Both Sean and I had high hopes for this season," said Wimer, whose son Sean coaches Stevenson's perennial state-power boys team. "I just knew we would be battling again in the end."