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By Brad Spencer
The school year lasts roughly nine months, and in that time a lot can happen, especially across gridirons, courts, and ballfields.
For Fenwick High School, an institution with a rich history of athletic achievements, the 2011-12 year produced several sports highlights, so many in fact we felt obligated to evaluate them according to their relevance (now, wasn't that thoughtful of us?). Here goes:
It was a topsy-turvy season for the Fenwick football team as the Friars were forced to endure midseason the firing — or dismissal or resignation or disappearance (no one would say) — of longtime head coach Joe DiCanio, who was said to be leaving at the end of the season anyway. Led by Pat Hart and Jack Stibbich, the Friars went out with a record of 4-5. Stibbich, who is bound for the University of Pennsylvania, closed out his high school career rushing for 97 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in a regular season finale victory over De La Salle.
The Fenwick baseball team hit the 20-win mark with a 13-2 win over Bishop McNamara. Pitcher Jack Forde, who will play at Depauw University next season, gave up the two runs on six hits over five innings. Creighton-bound Ryan Fitzgerald racked up three RBIs on the day, one coming off a triple.
The Friars secured a Class 2A Regional title with a 2-1 overtime victory over Fenton. Jack Alberts scored both goals for Fenwick. He finished the season with nine goals and 13 assists.
Fenwick didn't lose a game in the Catholic League, going 4-0-2, good for second place.
Olivia Soja was a workhorse on the diamond for the Fenwick softball team this season. Soja led the Friars to a 2-1 win in eight innings over Nazareth by allowing just one earned run on three hits, while striking out five. The next day, in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Joliet Catholic, the junior drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning with a clutch two-out single to help the Friars to a 4-3 win.
Soja was forced to pitch both games of the doubleheader due to an injury to Jess Mrozek before Game 2.
The Friars finished the season with an overall record of 18-13.
Boys water polo
All things must end and Fenwick boys water polo's state championship reign ended but not without a fight.
The Fenwick dynasty ended at eight straight titles before the Friars fell to Lyons Township 8-7 in the York Sectional Championship.
The Friars only lost two games all season, both to Lyons Township, who ended Fenwick's 82-game win-streak that stretched three seasons just a few weeks prior to the sectional victory.
Fenwick senior Matt Farmer and Dan Kelly scored three goals apiece for the Friars, who jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter and led 4-2 by halftime. But the Lions, who ended up winning the state title, outscored the Friars 4-1 in the final quarter.
It was a difficult end to an emotional season for the Friars, who lost beloved program head Dave Perry to cancer in September.
With only three seniors on the roster, the Fenwick boys basketball team struggled through its 2011-12 campaign, but made some heads turn near the end.
Leading into its first-ever Class 3A playoff appearance (Fenwick was in Class 4A previously), the Friars won eight of their last 11 games, including racking up a six-game win-streak.
Junior Luke Lattner and senior Sam Ainsworth helped lead the Friars. Fenwick's season ended with a 72-57 loss to Riverside-Brookfield in the regional semifinal despite Lattner's 25 points. Ainsworth will play at St. Ambrose University next season.
Epic girls basketball game
And we mean epic. The Fenwick girls basketball team battled cross-town rival OPRF to a 101-91 overtime victory.
The Friars held a 20-point lead at halftime but had to scramble to get the win in the extra period, mostly due to OPRF's Stekara Hall and Caroline Kelty. The duo scored a combined 48 of its team's 54 points in the last two quarters of regulation.
With OPRF leading by three with 30 seconds left in regulation, Fenwick's Meredith Boardman stole the ball in the backcourt and converted a fast-break layup. With seven seconds left on the clock, Kelty went to the free-throw line and made 1-of-2 shots. But Boardman sent the game into overtime with a shot over an outstretched Emily Vachon under the basket that banked off the glass at the buzzer. The two teams entered the extra stanza tied 87-87, a season-high scoring total for OPRF.
Kelty fouled out on OPRF's first possession of the overtime, and the Friars went on to clinch the victory and surpass the century scoring mark with timely shots and clutch free throws.
The Yale-bound Boardman led Fenwick with 25 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Jade Owens finished with 20 points for the Friars, who had a total of five players finish in double-digit scoring. Marek Burchette scored 13 points, while Paige Corvino finished with 12 and Maggie Reilly 11.
Fenwick went on to win its 17th-straight regional title and finished 22-10 on the season after a 64-45 loss to Trinity in the sectional semifinal.
The Fenwick girls swimming team ended Rosary's 11-year dual meet win-streak by garnering six first-place finishes.
Mimi Schneider, Haley Wickham, Paulina Kaminski and Maureen Barron won both the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:37.79) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:32.80). Schneider, a sophomore, also won the 100-yard butterfly in 55.80 seconds, a new team record. Barron took first in the 50-yard free with a time of 24.54 seconds, while Kaminski won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:06.83.
"They needed to know they could measure up to a team like Rosary, and they did that," said head coach Renee Miller of her team.
Fenwick went on to top Rosary again, this time finishing second at the state meet in front of its rival. The Friars took first in five events at state, including three relays.
Girls water polo
The Fenwick girls water polo team won its second straight and seventh overall state title with unyielding defense and timely scoring in the fourth period to finish with a 10-7 victory over Naperville Central.
Maureen Barron, Cara Borkovec, Paige Kuhut and Alexa Ovalle led the Friars by each scoring two goals apiece.
Matt Garelli added to his collection of trophies by winning his second straight Class 2A State Individual Wrestling title, this time at 120 pounds.
Garelli battled KeVon Powell to a 2-1 decision in double overtime for the title, marking an undefeated season at 23-straight wins. He'll wrestle at Stanford next season.