The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls water polo team went into last week’s IHSA York Sectional tournament a modest No. 4 seed out of nine teams, but the Huskies arguably were the surprise of the tourney, downing top-seeded Maine West 10-6 to reach the sectional finals, where their run came to an end against No. 2 York in a 14-2 defeat.
“We were clearly outmatched. York has a strong offense, and we couldn’t get the ball down the pool and made turnovers,” OPRF coach Elizabeth Perez said. “We played hard but weren’t quite up to their level. And [York] doesn’t make many mistakes.”
OPRF opened the sectional tournament by defeating Von Steuben 24-9 in the quarterfinal round on May 19. Addie Kosterman led the Huskies with 11 goals, and Regan Mary and Rory Cronin each added four goals.
On May 21, OPRF upset top-seeded Maine West 10-6 in the semifinals as Rory Cronin tallied six goals. In the sectional title game on May 22, the host Dukes went on a 12-0 run that spanned all four quarters as the Huskies fell 14-2.
Regan Mary Cronin and Zoe Regenstein scored the only two goals against York for the Huskies, who finished 9-9 for the year. Perez felt her team gradually improved as the season progressed and is excited about future success now that her returning players will be able to spend more time together in the offseason.
She also thanked her seniors for providing a good example for their teammates to follow.
“They leave a legacy of hard work,” Perez said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior class. They push each other, love the sport and showed true leadership this year and last when we had the pandemic. You don’t expect high school kids to handle this well, but they did.”
For OPRF boys third time’s the charm
The Fenwick High School boys water polo team had defeated crosstown opponent Oak Park and River Forest High School twice in the regular season. But the third time was the charm for the Huskies as they rallied from a 7-5 halftime deficit to knock off the host Friars 10-9 May 21 in the York Sectional semifinals.
“Fenwick is a great team, and they got a couple of bounces early on,” said OPRF coach John Rapp. “We turned it up on defense in the second half and that’s what won us the game.”
Senior Finn McMullen led OPRF with four goals against Fenwick, including the go-ahead goal with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I didn’t have any goals in the first half and I was getting scared,” said McMullen. “But this team really stepped up. After our first game, we made defense our main emphasis. If we play good defense, the offense will come.”
The Huskies (10-9) also received two goals apiece from George Bourgikos, E.J. Robinson and Connor Sorg as well as 10 saves from goalie Ambrose Krozel.
Fenwick (18-12) was victorious over OPRF twice – 14-10 on April 30 and 10-7 on May 7 – and led 8-5 early in the third quarter Friday night. However, the Friars managed only one more goal the remainder of the contest.
“[OPRF’s] defense was phenomenal tonight,” said Fenwick coach Kyle Perry. “We weren’t clicking on offense, but OPRF played great and we couldn’t quite put the ball in the back of the net as much as we would’ve liked to.”
Wil Gurski led Fenwick with four goals and two assists. Peter Buinauskas added a goal and three assists, and goalie Brian Moore recorded six saves. Buinauskas, Gurski, and Moore are among nine players that Fenwick will lose due to graduation.
OPRF advanced to the York Sectional title game against the host Dukes on May 22 and led 4-2 early in the second quarter, but York scored the game’s next 13 goals en route to an 18-7 victory.
“Their goalie was just too good and they counterattacked off of that,” Rapp said. “We came out at the start with a lot of confidence, but I think our boys showed they were tired in the third; the floodgates opened and that was pretty much the end of the game.”
Despite the loss, Rapp believed the Huskies had a good season.
“From where we started to where we finished, I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “One of our main goals was to beat Fenwick, and we accomplished that.
York too much for Fenwick girls
Fenwick defeated Maine South 14-9 in its York Sectional opener on May 19 with Annie McCarthy leading the Friars with four goals, while Demi Ovalle added three goals, five assists and four steals.
However, the season came to an end May 21 as Fenwick went down to defeat in the semifinal round against No. 2-seeded York 15-9. Against the Dukes, Ovalle led the Friars (11-13) with five goals, four steals and two assists. C.C. Trejo added two goals, two assists and two steals, while McCarthy had a goal and four steals. Goalie Julie Soto had 18 saves.
“We hung in there for a while,” said Fenwick coach Elizabeth Timmons. “But we just couldn’t finish out all four quarters. I could not be more proud of this season. The players should be proud of themselves, and I’m excited about what’s ahead because we have so much room to grow, learn, and develop over the next few years.”
Fenwick returns five of its seven starters next year — and only one will be a senior — so the future does appear bright.