Oak Park and River Forest High School girls water polo coach Beth Perez isn’t worried about scoring this season. If anything, she hopes the Huskies’ prolific offense can reach an even higher level.

“The key to a successful season will be improving on our strengths,” Perez said. “Our strengths include players with immense offensive ability and the ability to communicate and see the pool well.”

The Huskies certainly came out with a scoring mentality in their season debut against Waubonsie Valley on March 8. OPRF defeated the Warriors 16-6 as senior Greta Drane had five goals and two assists. Bennett Gloor and Lizzy Silber each scored three goals, while Mary Vanek and Nell Behr chipped in two goals apiece for OPRF. Goalies Sara Flynn (5 saves) and Sydney Mosher (4 saves) played well between the pipes.

Marie O’Donnell, Julia Thomason and Abby Heyer are other players expected to contribute this season.

“The players have been together in the offseason,” Perez said. “They played together and got to know each other more in and out of the pool.”

OPRF, which finished 17-13 overall and 3-2 in conference last year, should be competitive again in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. Lyons Township and York are the other top teams in the league.

A series of challenging invites, including Whitney Young and Naperville North, will serve as a good barometer of the team’s progress.

“We may see Lyons [at Whitney Young] which would be interesting,” Perez said. “Our games at the Naperville North Invite are always tough. They show what level we are at as we move to the conference tournament and sectionals.

In late April, the Huskies travel to Michigan to take on schools from the Hudsonville/Zeeland area.

“It’s a team-bonding trip,” Perez said. “It’s our third year at this tournament and fourth year overall in Michigan. We face some good competition.”

Boys poised

The Huskies are off to a 3-2 start this season, with wins against Homewood-Flossmoor, Mundelein and New Trier.

Although OPRF graduated several key contributors last spring, top returners Dan Franklin, Thomas Cozzi and Abe Zuraw ensure some continuity. Franklin had 28 goals, 23 ejections drawn and 21 steals last season, while Cozzi (29 goals, 30 steals) and Zuraw (19 goals, 17 steals) also had solid seasons.

“Dan has a very high game IQ and he’s a great teammate,” OPRF coach John Rapp said. “Thomas is a player you can put in any position and expect him to excel. Abe has really good vision of the pool.”

Sophomore center Cal Jaques, sophomore goalie Braydon Graves and freshman attacker Finn McMullen are promising newcomers to the varsity.

“We have a lot of talent and a great mix of different skills,” Rapp said. “Our goals are the same every season, make it to the conference and sectional championship games.” 

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...