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By Brad Spencer
Losing is a part of life, but it sure hasn't been a way of life for the Fenwick boys water polo program.
All things must end, even state championships, and that they did on Saturday with the Friars' 8-7 loss to Lyons Township in the York Sectional title game.
For eight straight seasons Fenwick dominated the pool, raising state championship trophy after state championship trophy, and securing themselves and their fellow students a day off from school each year. And after Saturday the only thing that stung was maybe the chlorine in the eyes of the players on this particular team.
They were down but by no means crestfallen, according to head coach Kyle Perry, who said it's never been about pressure to keep the streak alive.
"The guys are hardworking and motivated to win. Any time we talked about extending the state championship run, it was motivation to perform at our best," he said. "It's not like be afraid because you might be the team to ruin this; it's more like get ready because we're going to do what we did last year but we're going to do it even better and we're going to work even harder."
Working hard they did, as the team only lost two matches all season, both by one point and both to Lyons Township. They won 31 games while being plagued by injuries that included concussions and broken noses.
For Perry, a graduate of Fenwick and former water polo player, the end of the dynasty is bitter-sweet.
"As a water polo fan, this is one of the greatest things to happen in the IHSA era of water polo on the boys' side. For the first time, this year's Chicago Catholic League/Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference champion will not be the Illinois state champion. That has not happened since the IHSA began sanctioning the sport. If Lyons is able to win [the title], public schools will finally have arrived and won the top prize.
"[But] as a Fenwick water polo fan, I am bummed. I'd like to be coaching (this) week, and I know my boys would like to be playing. That being said, I don't know any other team in the state that could lose four of their top 10 guys throughout the last three weeks of the season and still feel confident that they could make it to state and even win a state championship."
Losing is a part of life, added Perry, who lost his father, Fenwick's beloved swimming and water polo coach Dave Perry, to cancer back in September. But he's sure the experience will do his players some good.
"My seniors will take the lessons that they've learned at Fenwick over the past four years and they will go on to become great men," he said. "My underclassmen now know what it's like to end a season with a loss. They'll probably be begging me to let them get into the pool as soon as possible to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
Losing is also a lesson in life.