Conventional wisdom says that a great water polo team needs to have a tall goalie in order to win championships. Somebody forgot to give that memo to Fenwick High School senior Lexi Buglio.
At 5-foot-3, Buglio was the shortest of the starting goalies at the state finals last weekend in Lincolnshire, but she stood tall through three matches, never more so than in Saturday night’s state championship match.
Buglio made 12 saves and surrendered just one goal in the second half as the Friars knocked off defending champion St. Ignatius 6-3 to win their eighth state title. The three goals allowed were the fewest ever given up in a title game.
“She’s awesome,” Fenwick coach Jack Wagner said. “Two years ago when she became our goaltender, she’s five-foot nothing and everybody is like, ‘Are you crazy?’ I said I thought we could win a state championship with a five-foot goalie and we did.”
Buglio saved her best for last and the Friars (31-2) needed every bit of that effort. Fenwick had beaten the Wolfpack (24-6) in all four of the previous meetings between the two Catholic League rivals this season, but St. Ignatius slowed the pace to a crawl and the result was the lowest-scoring title game in history.
The Wolfpack led 2-1 at halftime before the Friars outscored them 4-0 in the third quarter. Senior Colleen Barron scored the tying and go-ahead goals and Buglio made three big saves in a row to keep her team in front.
“I just had to stay calm,” Buglio said. “I might not have breathed for 10 seconds but I’m really glad that what I’ve trained for came out in that moment.
“I couldn’t have done it without the defense, though. It was a team effort. We all did fantastic.”
But it all started with Buglio. She even ignited the offense with accurate pool-length passes to Barron and sophomore Catie Wallace. Wallace scored with 1:45 left in the third quarter and then Buglio assisted on Barron’s third goal of the game that made it 5-2 with 24 seconds left in the period.
“It’s a big thing for our offense to just get them down the pool and for me to trust them and them trust me that I can give them a pass,” Buglio said.
That wasn’t a recent phenomenon.
“She carried us throughout the whole season,” Barron said. “She played insanely well this weekend.”
Fenwick senior Janette Angelini scored on a power play early in the fourth quarter. Ignatius got a goal from Diana Fernandez with 1:44 to go but could get no closer.
This was the third state title for Barron, who finished with 100 goals, and Alexa Ovalle, two of Fenwick’s eight seniors who rebounded from last year’s quarterfinal loss to Mother McAuley.
“With a team made up of so many seniors, it means so much to go out with a win,” said Barron, who will play at Bucknell next year. “It’s our final chance to do this so it feels really good that we actually accomplished it.”
Barron scored five goals in both the quarterfinal and semifinal as the Friars beat Naperville North 11-8 and Mother McAuley 12-8. Angelini had three goals and three assists in the latter, while Wallace, who finished with 90 goals, scored twice.
Fenwick boys water polo
The ending wasn’t as pleasant for the Fenwick boys team, which saw its remarkable state finals winning streak come to an end with a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Loyola in double overtime in the championship game.
The Friars (31-5) had never lost in the state finals, going 32-0 since the IHSA first sanctioned the sport in 2002. That included a15-7 quarterfinal win over St. Ignatius and a 13-8 victory over top-ranked Naperville North (33-2) in the semifinals.
But Loyola (31-5), which had won two of the three regular season meetings with Fenwick, never trailed in capturing its first state championship. Fenwick had won 10 of the last 12 titles, including last year’s.
“You never want it to be your team [that ends the streak] but I guess it has to happen sometime,” Fenwick junior Andrew Bertschy said. “Loyola is a great team. They played a great game.
“I think their getting off to a fast start definitely did not help us. They started quick.”
Indeed, the Ramblers jumped out to a 3-0 lead as star Cameron Shewchuck scored two of his six goals in the first quarter and the Friars were forced to play catch-up the entire time.
But even though Loyola held Fenwick leading scorer Danny Farmer and fellow star Ryan Masi to just one goal each, the Friars rallied late, scoring three goals in the final 3:17 of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 8-8.
Omar Calderon, one of just four seniors on Fenwick’s roster, scored with 23 seconds off a Masi assist to send the game to overtime.
Shewchuck scored with 2:11 left in each of the overtime periods but the Friars tied it each time, first on a goal by Bertschy with 19 ticks left in the first extra period and then when Bailey Wendt scored with 21.5 seconds left in the second session.
But Fenwick was called for a penalty with 14 seconds left and Loyola’s Jack Schermerhorn scored on the ensuing power play with :08 remaining for the decisive goal.
“We were 14 seconds short,” Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. “It hurts. This sucks for us but I can tell you the goal is to win state again next year. The guys, they’re not happy right now.”
Despite the loss, the reality is Fenwick had a tremendous season considering graduation claimed 11 seniors, including all but one starter, from last year’s championship team. But the Friars wouldn’t use youth as an excuse.
“We went into this year knowing we had a young team,” Bertschy said. “We only had two senior starters and I think we set the bar high every year to win a state championship.
“That’s expected out of us every year. Our team knows it. Everyone at our school knows it. It’s just what we do here. We go out and win state championships and this was a disappointment.”
While the pressure of those expectations might crush a lesser group, the Friars seem to embrace it.
“There’s a ton of pressure but I don’t think they’d want it any other way,” Perry said. “The guys love it. That’s what they’re all about.
“We’re not here to hang out. We want to win.”
The Friars seem poised to do just that in 2015 as they will return the bulk of their offense, including Farmer (110 goals), Masi (66 goals, including 12 in the finals), Bertschy (45 goals, 52 assists) and Wendt (41 goals, 36 assists).