Girls water polo: Maine West's Schneider reaches 500 milestone
It was an early and successful start for Drew Schneider. Now the Maine West girls water polo coach can add a huge milestone to his 24-year career.
Schneider recently hit the 500-win mark in his career. It is a huge achievement for a head coach who began his career in not just the sport's infancy, but his own youth as well.
Schneider, who is in his seventh season at Maine West after spending 17 years at Mundelein, picked up his 500th win on April 16. He is the third winningest coach in Illinois high school water polo history.
"It was a great feeling," Schneider said. "It is a credit to all the girls that I have coached and to my assistant coaches."
Schneider, whose team is 21-4 this season, has an overall head coaching record of 504-206-8.
Schneider did not take a traditional road to becoming a head coach.
Schneider graduated from Mundelein in 1994. But things took a different turn.
Because Water polo, especially on the girls' side, was new and lacking experienced people who were looking to coach, Schneider had an opportunity. He began coaching right out of high school while attending UIC, as an assistant coach at Mundelein.
Schneider got a strong taste of that winning feel right away. He spent his first three seasons at Mundelein under Jeff Wimer with the Mustangs winning two state titles and added a second-place finish while going 106-4 in that span.
When Wimer left in 1998, Schneider, who was still in college, took over the team.
He guided the Mustangs to a 27-5 record that season. And in the next 16 seasons, his teams would win 386 matches. They also would win two state titles and finished second, third on two occasions, and fourth in two other years.
"When I was at Mundelein, we were one of the schools leading the way to get it as an approved sport by the IHSA," Schneider said. "Just back then it was club."
Water polo became an officially sanctioned state sport for girls and boys in the 2001-02 season. Mundelein, under Schneider's guidance, finished third that year. The Mustangs finished second the next season and fourth in the 2013-2014 season.
"I took over a program that was extremely successful," Schneider said. "It had a rich tradition. But I always said to myself that it would be extremely gratifying to take over a program that did not have such a rich tradition. And start fresh with a new program."
That opportunity arose when Schneider opted to leave Mundelein and go to Maine East to teach business classes. After taking a season off of coaching, there was an opening for a girls water polo coach at Maine West, which is the same district, so he grabbed the opportunity to coach.
During his seasons at Maine West, the Warriors are 118-46-4, with four consecutive CSL North titles. That record includes a 14-13 double overtime win earlier this past week over Naperville Central and their coach Jeff Plackett, who is fourth all-time as winningest coach in the state and is 10 wins away from 500.
Since the sport became IHSA certified, Schneider has had 9 players named first team all-state. That includes Maine West's Emily Piocchiotti, who was named to the team last year as junior.
Maine West athletic director Jarett Kirshner said that Schneider has been a great mentor and coach to the student-athletes at Maine West.
"He is fantastic," Kirshner said. "He is an education-based athletic coach who provides an outstanding experience for the kids in his program. It is a highly competitive program with kids who ae committed to working together."