Scouting boys water polo

  • Kunal Rajadhyax returns for a Stevenson team that finished fourth in the state last year.

      Kunal Rajadhyax returns for a Stevenson team that finished fourth in the state last year. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville North's Jack Reif is back after helping the Huskies win 23 games and a sectional championship last season.

      Naperville North's Jack Reif is back after helping the Huskies win 23 games and a sectional championship last season. John Starks | Staff Photographer

By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/20/2023 4:34 PM

A year ago, New Trier pulled out an inspiring victory over Young to capture the boys state water polo championship.

Stevenson, which finished in fourth place, is looking to climb up the ladder a few notches and end their season raising the first-place trophy this spring.


The Patriots return all but two players from last season's team, as Max Lapointe, Kunal Rajadhyax, Olin Kusevskis and Andrew Mossman are the main returnees.

"We're a very experienced team and a motivated bunch," Stevenson coach Sean Wimer said. "Max and Kunal lead a deep group of aggressive and very fast attackers that constantly stress the defense. Olin is the most physically dominant player in the state. Andrew is very long and athletic."

Barrington coach Rob Emary is optimistic his program is ready to make big strides following an eight-win season. The Broncos have an abundance of talent, with Rylan Anselm and Toby Cotner as newcomers joining Ian Johnson, Karol Nowak, Hunter Dibek, Luke Bucaro, Alex Scott, Evan Kissack, Judd Baron and Adam Gaffney.

"I think this year the boys are a bit more experienced and have come into the season more focused and ready to play every day," Emary said.

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Elk Grove is attempting to build up its numbers to become a consistent winning program. The Grenadiers have a good base of returnees, with Sam Sacha, Daniel Bochenek and Philip Moskal joining promising newcomer Michael Dabrowski.

Fremd has high hopes for another stellar season behind Luke Helsdingen, Aurleian Laffont, Tyler Franke, Ansh Parikh, Kurt Pennel and Eric Zhang.

"We're bringing back a lot of experience and leadership," Fremd coach Tim Daniel said.

Libertyville broke several milestones last season, including a single-season record for wins with 26 and reaching the sectional finals. Eric Sparks and Nolan McDonald are two foundation players set to lead the Wildcats.

"This team has big goals and the talent to achieve them," Libertyville coach Kara Bosman said.

Metea Valley sophomore Youssef El Touny is the top player back from a 21-win team. Connor Conley, a senior diver, is also an upperclassmen on a team full of new faces.


"We're a young team this year," Metea Valley coach Sean McNicholas said. "We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores, but we still have some strong seniors. We're a fast and a young team."

Mundelein is a team looking to build on last season's 17-15 record. The Mustangs, led by attackers Alec Sethna, Jonny Gray and Jacob Hall along with Ethan Trankolov, are seeking to be a team to watch in the North Suburban Conference.

Naperville Central, which lost to Naperville North in a sectional final last season, is bringing back three key players in junior goalie Ross DeZur and seniors Zach Gabel and Mason Schmitt.

"We have a mix of new varsity players and experienced seniors who have a lot to prove," Naperville Central coach William Salentine said. "We lost eight seniors to graduation."

A few miles away, Naperville North (23-5 last season) has a strong group of young players, highlighted by sophomore sensation Jack Reif, junior Brett Grady and sophomore Mason Hofmann.

"We're a young but strong team," Naperville North coach Kelly Reif said. "We're hoping to defend our sectional title and make a repeat appearance at the state tournament."

Schaumburg heads into the season full of experience, paced by seniors Tim Dombrowski and Patrick Dima.

"We have a full roster of returners who gained varsity experience, along with total buy-in on the program and vision," Schaumburg coach Tyler Clark said. "Our goal is to compete in the MSL and push for a conference title."

St. Charles East has a strong core of players, which includes Jackson Grohe, Luke Doughty, Seth Kacmar, Chris Souk, Clancy Windle, Josh Kennedy and goalie Jack Rago.

"This is probably the most hardworking team with the best attitude that I have ever been around," St. Charles East coach Brett Unruh said.

St. Charles North is another area team loaded with veterans after posting a 21-win season to tie for a single-season program record for wins. The North Stars have talent up and down the roster, in Robby Kemp, James Shimon, Joe Shimon, Joe Brucato and Ben Bransky.

"We have lots of experienced players returning this year," St. Charles North coach Chris Cloy said. "We're looking to maintain our standard of performance."

For Vernon Hills, the group of returnees includes Charlie Karston, Aidan Kamai, Emmitt Brown-Richardson, Murray Heneghan, Matthew Lee and Gavin Mansfield. The Cougars (6-14-1) lost two key players from last season, though they have a solid junior and sophomore class.

Led by six returning varsity players, Waubonsie Valley is aiming to be in the mix for a conference title. Seniors Keith Cabinian and Jude Caruso join a talented and deep junior class, along with a group of promising first-year varsity players. The Warriors, who finished 26-4 for the best season in program history last spring, are looking to take an even bigger step in 2023.

"We have a solid group of upperclassmen that know the game very well," Waubonsie Valley coach Mike McWhirter said. "This team is very passionate about being the best. Our goal is to be the most effective defensive team in the area."

Wheeling captured the Mid-Suburban League East Division last season behind a senior heavy team. Junior Gavin Little and senior goalie Nick Santi headline the returnees.

"We will be in a transition year, looking to improve for the future," Wheeling coach Tom Schaul said.

York had a banner season in 2022, winning the West Suburban Conference Silver for the first time, also capturing a sectional title and landing a spot in the Elite Eight. Senior Nick Kamenica is an elite player and Gavin Honken scored 105 goals last season, while Tim Jensen is a player to watch.

"This is a group which is incredibly focused and willing to do the day-to-day work necessary to win big games in May," York coach Brian Drumm said.

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