With eight players returning from last year’s 23-10 team, which advanced to the IHSA York Sectional final, the Fenwick High School boys water polo team is eager to shake off their state tourney showings the past two seasons and once again reach the state’s final eight
“We’re off to a great start,” said Fenwick coach Kyle Perry of the preseason preparation. “Our strength is that the boys are ready to work and improve. We have several guys with a lot of varsity experience, and they’ve been doing all they can to share their knowledge with their teammates.”
The Friars’ top returnees are senior Chris Badja, who made the All-State Third Team last spring with a team-leading 90 goals, 68 assists and 66 steals; senior Alec Posluszny (57 goals); senior goalie Sam Kulisek (third team All-Sectional, 186 blocks, 18 assists, and 22 steals); junior Tim Fischer (45 goals); and junior Finn Vahey (second team All-Sectional, 45 goals, 41 assists, 44 steals).
Junior Owen McDonald and seniors Jacob Chi and Vincent Meo are also key returning contributors.
Top newcomers for Fenwick include sophomore Thomas Helt, who posted over 100 goals last year on the frosh-soph team; juniors Patrick and Timothy Gibbons; and freshmen Lorenzo Buonicore, Thomas Caicedo, Ewan McLachlan, Eddy Miljanovic, whom Perry says is competing for the starting goalie job, and Jack Posluszny.
The added depth is sure to come in handy with another daunting schedule ahead. They’ll host the Dan Lynch Tournament March 16-18, which features many of the state’s top teams along with two top Missouri schools.
Fenwick will host a crosstown showdown and Senior Night with Oak Park and River Forest on April 5, then go to St. Louis for an invitational April 14-15. The Friars will also look to defend its Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference championship, no easy feat with Loyola Academy, St. Ignatius and St. Rita being the main challengers.
“The MCAC is always one of the top conferences in the state, so we will be tested every time,” Perry said.
Entering his 13th year as head coach, Perry knows Fenwick has a tradition of excellence in water polo, and he anticipates the Friars being in the hunt for the state title.
“Our goal every year is to be playing our best water polo in May,” he said. “We look forward to the challenges of our conference, sectional, and IHSA state tournaments, and we want to represent Fenwick as best as we can.”
Fenwick has its season opener at home against Loyola March 8.
Oak Park and River Forest High School’s boys water polo team is aiming to build upon last season, which saw the Huskies go 11-12 with a loss in the York Sectional semifinals to Fenwick.
“We look much stronger than we did at this time last year,” said second-year OPRF coach Bailey Wendt, a Fenwick alumnus. “Our team’s greatest strength is their communication in and out of the pool. This whole team is comfortable communicating in game situations.”
OPRF has six returnees from last season. Among them are senior Brad Huseby, a two-year captain who led the Huskies in assists, and senior J.J. Kuenster, the team’s top goal scorer who will also be a captain.
The Huskies are looking for contributions from several newcomers. Sophomore Lucas Puntillo takes over the starting goalie duties.
“He’s a very talented athlete and we will be counting on him this season,” Wendt said.
Sophomore Greg Huseby, Brad’s younger brother, and junior Diego Mendoza also look to make an impact for OPRF.
The Huskies open the season at the Palatine Tournament on March 10-11.
With state title contenders Lyons Township and York on the docket, the West Suburban Silver figures to be grueling. But Wendt feels OPRF can be competitive against each.
“Our team goal is to play a competitive game in the sectional final and see what happens from there,” he said. “We want to develop our sophomore and junior classes to continue to improve the program.”