Tricky trifling Trevians trip-up Evanston girls water polo

Girls water polo made sure its presence was known every single time the team took to the pool last season. Before each game, the team hyped itself up with its signature war cry.

“We’d all take deep breaths and just yell as loud as we could just to get the nerves out,” said Class of 2022 senior and girls water polo captain Hilda Arellano.

Ultimately, the war cry strategy proved to be an effective one. The team boasted an impressive 24-7-2 record and was undefeated in the CSL. In fact, most of the conference matches weren’t even close—Evanston defeated Glenbrook South, 12-0, Glenbrook North, 21-4 and Maine South, 17-0.

But the one CSL team that always proved to be an uphill battle for E-Town was, of course, New Trier.

Though Evanston beat New Trier three times in-season, games between the powerhouses were exceptionally competitive. The first time the two teams met on April 7, Evanston narrowly nudged out a 10-8 victory. This practically ensured Evanston’s place in the conference championship at the end of the season and also gave the Kits a nice confidence boost for future games against the Trevians.

“Something that I had come up with after all the years of struggling to beat [New Trier] at the end of the season was you had to beat them before the end of the year.” says Varsity Head Coach Andy Miner. “You couldn’t just turn it out at the end of the season and hope that you would.” 

The next time Evanston faced New Trier was at the Water Polo Classic tournament held at Stevenson High School. The margin of victory was slightly wider this time, at 11-7, and the win propelled the Orange and Blue to the tournament championship, which was ultimately lost to the host team, 10-1.

Finally, almost a month later on May 7, the Wildkits defeated New Trier to win the conference championship, 8-6. Evanston’s goals were scored by Class of 2022 seniors Ava Santos-Volpe, Hilda Arellano, Morrigan Bushroe-Stumpf and sophomore Zayra Arellano that day.

“Going into the conference game, we fully believed in what we were doing as a staff and a team. We didn’t really want to change anything—just trust in the work that we’ve done and our abilities that we have and hopefully it’ll carry us through again,” says Miner. “And for conference it did.” 

Once conference was secured, it was smooth sailing through the Sectional tournament for Evanston. After a first round bye, E-Town trounced Maine South, 17-3, in the quarterfinals and Loyola Academy, 11-4, in the semifinals. 

According to Arellano, one of the biggest reasons girls water polo achieved so many wins this season was by focusing on the first goal each game.

“First goal matters, one-hundred percent,” says Arellano. “Every game that we played this season we always shot the first goal, including the three wins against New Trier.”

But when the Kits went head-to-head against the Trevians for the final time in the Sectional championship, New Trier shot first.

“It wasn’t very visible, but you could just tell off your own teammates because you get so close to them that they were like ‘whoa, they shot first,’” says Arellano.

Going into the fourth quarter, Evanston was faced with overcoming an improbable, but not impossible, 6-2 deficit. But every goal the Kits scored in the fourth, the Trevians matched. With a 9-5 final score, it might not have been the biggest loss of the season, but it was most definitely the worst.

“[New Trier’s] intensity was at a level that we hadn’t seen anything remotely close to the entire season,” says Miner. “They came out and took over the game right out of the gate. And then we just couldn’t find a rhythm.”

While the season may have ended in the traditional sense with that heartbreaking loss, there was still one more duty for girls water polo to fulfill. For the past two seasons, the team has come together for one last practice a week after the final game. The coaches jump in the pool, the seniors say their goodbyes and everyone walks out together.

“For years, we were always losing in the Sectional finals. That’s such a crappy way to end your time together,” says Miner. “There needs to be something better that allows allows closure. That’s what we’ve done the last two seasons, something I will continue doing and something I think every every program should do.”