Water polo takes young roster into conference


Jimmy Heard

Junior Halley Seed takes a shot on goal.

Ben Baker-Katz

After falling one goal short last season, girls water polo looks to take home the hardware at the conference tournament next weekend.

“We’re confident,” said head coach Andy Miner. “We expect to see us and New Trier in the conference final.”

New Trier is the top team in the conference, followed by the Kits.

In their only matchup against New Trier, on April 17, the Kits lost 8-6.

“[New Trier] answered some questions about how our girls can play against them, and what we can do now to be successful,” Miner said.

One aspect of their game that Miner learned from the New Trier game is their defensive weak spots. Specifically, their ability to defend in the deep end of the pool.

“They were really good defending the shallow end,” said Miner. “But we beat them 6-4 when we were shooting deep and they were shooting deep.”

This bodes well for the Kits, because the conference tournament is played in a deep-deep pool, as opposed to a shallow-deep pool.

Despite the loss to New Trier, the Kits made a strong showing of their conference play this season. They won all three of their other conference matchups, including a dominating 12-2 win against Niles West on April 12.

The story of this season, however, has been growth.

“We came into the season not knowing our varsity roster, and our team turned out to be quite young,” said senior Neha Singh.

The team started off at a disadvantage from last season, losing two DI players from last season: Emma Stein to Villanova and Riley Hughes to Brown.

With only six returning players from last year’s squad, three of which are juniors, this team is much younger and more inexperienced than past teams.

“It’s an uphill battle, especially with this young of a team, because the younger players are still learning,” said junior Halley Seed. “Everyone starts playing water polo freshman year, and it’s a hard game to learn.”

The returning players have taken that leadership role to heart. The players take time to help coach younger players during practice by talking to, and sometimes yelling at, the younger players.

“The biggest key is being very vocal in the water,” said Seed, “telling the younger players where they need to be and what they need to do.”

One way Miner has accelerated the learning process is the implementation of three hours practices, twice a week, that consist of one hour of weights and two hour practice in the pool.

“In water polo, you need to be really well conditioned but you also need to understand the flow of the game,” said Miner.

The Kits started the season out well, dominating Whitney Young and Deerfield their first two games. However, they lost 14-4 in their next game to Stevenson, the top ranked team in the state according to illpolo.com.

“I think we were a bit overconfident after those first two games,” said Seed. “[Stevenson] was a bit of a wake-up call.”

The Kits have hovered around .500 since then, losing games to top-10 teams Lyons and Conant, but beating both Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South.

Last year, the Kits lost 8-7 to New Trier in the conference final in triple-overtime

Every game they have played against New Trier over the last six years, bar one, has been won by a margin of two goals or less.

When push comes to shove, Miner says, the age of the team doesn’t matter.

“You can’t lower the bar just because the team is younger,” said Miner. “Every year, the girls that make varsity rise to the challenge.