The Oak Park and River Forest girls water polo team reached the sectional final in 2021, only to lose to West Suburban Silver rival York and ending the season 6-8.
This year, the Huskies — led by four returning seniors in Rory Cronin, Amelia Morrison, Ashby Steward-Nolan and Cali Weber — look to take the next step.
“We have a great senior group of players who I think will shine this year because of their continued dedication,” said OPRF coach Elizabeth Perez. “Our strengths are our communication and defense. I feel like we’re knowledgeable and inquisitive, which will help us in the long run.”
The Huskies have begun the season 1-2, with losses to Hersey and Naperville North and a 16-6 victory over Evanston at the Naperville North Invitational on March 12.
However, the long-term prognosis of the program looks promising. Perez said 44 girls came out for the team this spring, necessitating the addition of a junior varsity B team.
But if this year’s team is to progress, Perez would like to see more balance on offense.
“We want to improve our offensive capabilities from everyone on the team, not just a select few,” she said.
Perez sees the West Suburban Conference as a close race, with Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township and York being the top contenders along with OPRF.
OPRF will compete in the Naperville Central Invitational on March 18-19.
Fenwick looks to build from tough 2021
The Fenwick girls water polo team had a rare subpar record in 2021, finishing 9-13 and losing in the sectional semifinal to York.
But with the majority of the roster returning, second-year coach Elizabeth Timmons is optimistic that the Friars can return to their winning ways. Fenwick is off to a 2-0 start this year, having defeated Mother McAuley 11-7 on March 7 and St. Ignatius 12-4 on March 9.
“The team has such a fun and welcoming vibe this year,” she said. “They’re all excited to improve and work together to achieve their goals. They’re hard-working and look out for each other.”
Timmons expects that senior Demi Ovalle will be a leader for Fenwick. She’s also hoping for contributions from seniors Linden Gierstorf and Naomi Szczeblowski; juniors Nahla Basile, Annie McCarthy, Pam Medina, and Hannah Schubkegel; and sophomores Audrey Mason and Xiomara Trejo.
“One of our biggest strengths is believing in each other and working together,” Timmons said. “I would like them to improve on taking advantage of opportunities. Sometimes we pass up a good shot in favor of passing and we need to make sure we take advantage of any good opportunity we get.”
The Friars expect to challenge for the MCAC title this spring, but with only nine players on the varsity roster, Timmons admits a lack of depth could be a concern.
“With such a small team, all tournaments are going to be a challenge for us,” she explained. “We don’t have a big bench, so it will be interesting to see how we can handle playing three games in a day.”
Fenwick will participate in the Naperville North Tournament on March 18-19.