Fenwick senior Annie McCarthy looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the Friars’ loss to York in the IHSA Sectional finals against the host Dukes. | Sara Janz

With a combined 30 state championships (20 boys, 10 girls), the Fenwick High School water polo program has long been the gold standard in Illinois.

But this year, and for the first time since the IHSA sanctioned water polo as a sport beginning in 2002 (and outside of the 2020 and 2021 COVID seasons), neither the boys nor girls teams will be represented at the state finals, which features the eight sectional champions.

“Quite a run,” said Fenwick boys coach Kyle Perry. “Looking forward to the next run.”

At the IHSA York Sectional finals May 13, the host and top seed Dukes ensured this by defeating second-seeded Fenwick in both matches.

In the girls’ title match, York’s Rose Jensen was a machine, scoring 12 goals and adding four assists to lead the Dukes to a 21-9 victory.

“She’s somebody I’ve played with since I was about 10 years old,” said Fenwick senior Annie McCarthy of Jensen, a San Jose State University recruit. “I have nothing but love and respect for her.”

“We worked in some defenses and shut her down in some instances,” said Fenwick girls coach Elizabeth Timmons. “But [Jensen] is a gamer and she was ready to play today.”

Fenwick (15-16) began the game on a solid note, scoring two of the first three goals. But York (27-3) tallied the last two goals of the first quarter as part of a 5-0 run that carried over into the second quarter.

The Friars allowed two more big scoring runs as the Dukes tallied the final three goals of the first half, then scored four consecutive goals late in the third quarter to essentially put things away.

“We came out strong in the beginning, but seemed to lose it a bit,” McCarthy said. “It was a tough day.”

Xiomara Trejo had three goals to lead Fenwick, which last missed the state finals in 2003. 

Timmons feels the season was a good one for the Friars despite their record. Fenwick battled through multiple injuries and didn’t have its projected starting lineup in the water until the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference tournament.

“Our record doesn’t show the improvement we’ve made, nor does today’s score,” she said. “I want to say thank you to my seniors for everything that they did. We’re looking forward to bringing back the remainder of the group we have and see what we can do next year.”

McCarthy, whose older brothers Connor and Liam also played at Fenwick, said she’s enjoyed her time as a Friar.

“We’ve had so many ups and downs, but I’ve had so much fun with my teammates and I’m going to miss them so much next year,” said McCarthy, who plans to play club water polo at Purdue University.

On May 12 in the sectional semifinals, Trejo had four goals and Audrey Mason added three in the Friars’ 13-4 victory over Oak Park and River Forest High School. Becca Dee, Tori Evans, Amanda Lane, and Cara Walicki each scored for the Huskies (9-16). 

Fenwick boys falls to York 10-8

Fenwick’s boys  water polo team made several good pushes during the second half against York in the boys’ title match, but the Dukes were able to hold on for a 10-8 victory, ending the Friars’ season in the sectional final for the second consecutive year.

“York’s a really good team and I thought we played a solid game,” Perry said. “At the beginning of the season, a lot of people thought we weren’t going to be strong, but we demonstrated that we are and will be a top team moving forward.”

Trailing 6-3 in the third quarter, Fenwick (23-10) got a boost from Tommy Helt, whose back-to-back goals brought the Friars to within one. But York (24-6) scored the final two goals of the quarter, then took a 9-5 lead with 4:46 remaining in regulation.

However, Fenwick made another charge as Finn Vahey and Tim Fischer scored about 35 seconds apart. But Nick Kamenica’s tally with 3:48 left gave the Dukes breathing room again.

The Friars made a final push as Alec Posluszny scored with 1:28 remaining. After Fenwick forced a turnover, York goalie Aiden Reidy juggled a save and Chris Badja put in the loose ball with 58 seconds left. But the officials ruled that the Dukes had called timeout before the goal, although it was unclear if Reidy had maintained possession.

“We had game-planned for being down by one in the final minute,” Perry said. “It was a 50-50 opportunity there, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

Helt had three goals and Sam Kulisek made six saves for Fenwick, which loses six seniors to graduation. 

“All in all, I’m proud of the guys,” Perry added. “The progress from day one to now has been incredible.”

In the semifinal May 12, Fenwick scored seven goals in the first quarter en route to a 15-9 victory over OPRF. Badja had five goals, while Brady Sorg had four goals for the Huskies (21-9).

“Fenwick’s counterattack was very good and we had a few turnovers in the first quarter,” said OPRF coach Bailey Wendt. “The kids dug deep and fought for the next three quarters, which was good to see.”

OPRF made significant improvement in Wendt’s second season, and that has him excited for the future.

“This is one of the best seasons we’ve had in a while,” he said. “We’re going to have another good team next season and we’re getting better year-by-year.”

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