The Fenwick High School girls water polo team punched its ticket to the IHSA state quarterfinals May 14 with a 10-9 victory over top-seeded York at the York Sectional final.
“It’s my first time going to state [as a head coach], so I’m very excited,” said Fenwick coach Elizabeth Timmons. “It’s all the players; they’ve decided that they have a goal and want to accomplish it.”
While the Friars defeated the Dukes during the regular season, Timmons figured the rematch would be a challenge.
“Everyone shows up to play at the end of the year,” she said. “Even if you win by a lot during the season, you can’t underestimate anyone.”
Things didn’t look promising early for second-seeded Fenwick (23-6-1) as York led for much of the first half. But Demi Ovalle’s goal with 1:02 left tied the game, then Linden Gierstorf’s right before the halftime horn gave the Friars a 5-4 lead.
“That was so big,” said Gierstorf. “It turned the entire tide of the game.”
Fenwick took a 9-7 lead late in the third quarter, but York’s Rose Jensen tallied a pair of goals, the second of which tied the game 9-9 with 2:57 left. She finished with eight goals for the game.
But a York foul on Fenwick’s subsequent possession resulted in a player being excluded, and the Friars took advantage when Ovalle scored what ultimately was the game-winning goal.
“It was really hard. I had to keep my head going,” she said. “We had to step up and we did.”
After Ovalle’s goal, Fenwick’s defense did the rest, forcing multiple turnovers down the stretch to secure the victory.
“It’s amazing, we knew we could do it,” said Gierstorf of returning the Friars to the state quarterfinals. “It’s what we’ve worked for all year and we’re so excited.”
Fenwick meets host Stevenson in a quarterfinal on May 20 at 5:45 p.m. in Lincolnshire. The Patriots have been a premier program in recent seasons and defeating them in their own pool won’t be easy.
“Our passing needs to be better and we need to watch out for counters,” Ovalle said. “Our defense is pretty good, but we need to execute a little more on offense.”
In a sectional semifinal on May 13, Fenwick defeated crosstown rival Oak Park and River Forest 10-6. Lauren Friker had three goals for the Huskies (14-17).
“We started off strong, but Fenwick adapted to our drives pretty well,” said OPRF coach Elizabeth Perez. “They pressed [OPRF’s leading scorer] Rory [Cronin] hard and moved her outside. She wasn’t able to get inside much, and that hurt us.”
York halts Fenwick boys in sectional final
The Fenwick boys water polo team surrendered the first five goals of its sectional final match May 14 against host York, and that early hole proved too deep to overcome as the Friars’ season ended in a 12-6 defeat.
“We just couldn’t execute today,” said Fenwick coach Kyle Perry. “We had a lot of stuff we wanted to do and couldn’t follow through.”
Dylan Fu and Cameron Sarvis each had two goals for the Friars (22-10).
“At no point did the guys give up, even at the end,” Perry said. “They kept saying, ‘Let’s keep going,’ and you love to see that.”
Oak Park and River Forest High School lost in a sectional semifinal May 13 to the Friars 11-6 as Sarvis scored with around 4:30 left to break a 6-6 tie and spark a closing 5-0 run by Fenwick.
“We got into foul trouble early and had to go deep into our bench,” said OPRF coach Bailey Wendt. “But our team really competed hard and I’ve got to give Fenwick the credit. They had a good fourth quarter and their experience came through at the end.”
Wendt thought OPRF (13-11-1) took major strides forward as the year progressed and is eager to see what lies ahead for the program.
“We had a massive improvement as a team, so I thought our season went very well,” he said. “We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores that were in the water [against Fenwick], and the future’s bright for us.”