By Marty Farmer
With 29 IHSA state championships between them, it's no secret that the Fenwick High School boys (20) and girls (9) water polo programs set their sights high.
But sectional championships, especially in their own pool against a heated rival, can be pretty sweet, too.
That's the scenario the Friars' boys team enjoyed Saturday with a 20-5 rout against York in the Fenwick Sectional final.
"This was probably the most complete game of the season for us so far," Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. "York was overly aggressive with three players fouling out, one game exclusion and 12 total exclusions including six in the first quarter.
"Our players were not interested in being intimidated. We stuck to the game plan and played a solid game."
Last year, the Dukes edged Fenwick 10-9 in a sectional final in Elmhurst.
While the highly anticipated rematch certainly didn't lack intensity, the scoring was one-way traffic from start to finish. The Friars seized a 5-2 lead after one quarter and outscored York 5-1 in each of the remaining three quarters.
Conor Hendzel led Fenwick in scoring with five goals, while Noah Groll had three goals and Payton Comstock and Luis Murphy added two goals apiece. Ramses Flores dished four assists, with Matt Hoban and Hendzel contributing three assists each. Goalie David Francisco finished with eight saves.
The Friars earned a hard-fought 17-6 win against St. Patrick in the semifinals and dispatched Morton 21-2 in the quarterfinals.
Fenwick is loaded with talent in the pool, but the coaching staff is also one of the best in the state.
"Coach Perry has done, and continues to do, a tremendous job with this team," Murphy said. "We are very lucky to have a coach who has extensive knowledge of the game and is a mentor to all of us.
"The amount of experience we have on our coaching staff alone sets us apart from other teams. Each coach brings something different to the table yet they all share the same goal, which is to make us better teammates, players, and individuals."
Hosted by Stevenson High School, Fenwick (24-8) turns its attention to the state quarterfinals where the Friars will meet Barrington on Friday, May 19 (4:30 p.m.). The other three quarterfinals, New Trier vs. Lyons Township (5:45 p.m.), Stevenson vs. Lincoln-Way East (7 p.m.) and St. Ignatius vs. Naperville Central (8:15 p.m.) will occur after the Fenwick game.
The semifinals, third-place and championship are Saturday, May 20.
"We are going into state with confidence," Groll said. "We feel that we are playing our best water polo right now and are ready to go out and compete with anyone.
"At the same time, we do not underestimate any opponent and take it one game at a time. That is the key; every opponent we face from now until the end will be very good, so we have to bring our 'A' game each time."
Speaking of bringing your "A" game, the Fenwick girls water polo team has been playing that way most of the season. The defending state champions finished 24-6-1 this spring, highlighted so far by a 12-6 victory over York in the Fenwick Sectional final.
Kelly Frumkin scored six goals and Molly McGuire contributed three goals and three steals against York. Millie Sheean (goal, assist, 5 steals), Xonhane Medina (4 steals), Kassy Rodriguez (3 assists, 3 steals) and Harper Daniels (goal, assist, 5 steals) also played key roles for the Friars.
In earlier sectional matches, Fenwick defeated Morton 14-4 in the semifinals and Prosser 11-2 in the quarterfinals.
Nine players scored for the Friars in their win against Morton, led by Frumkin's three goals. McGuire, Sheean and Daniels chipped in two goals apiece. Goalie Sam Rodriguez, who allowed four goals on 11 shots, also had four steals and an assist.
On the season, Frumkin leads the team in goals with 70 along with 48 steals and 25 assists. McGuire has 53 goals, 58 steals and 32 assists and Daniels has 41 goals, 38 steals and 27 assists.
Add capable playmakers like Sheean, Medina, Rodriguez, Kate Mackie, Kelsey Sullivan and Alyssa Sayatovic to the mix, and the Friars have plenty of offensive firepower.
Fenwick takes on Prospect in the second game of the state quarterfinals at Stevenson on Thursday, May 18 at 5:45 p.m. The other three quarterfinals (played on the same day) are Naperville Central vs. New Trier (4:30 p.m.), St. Ignatius vs. Stevenson (7 p.m.) and Mother McAuley vs. Lincoln-Way Central (8:15 p.m.).
In last year's state final, the Friars' Catie Wallace scored the game-winning goal in a 13-12 win against Naperville Central to secure a ninth state title in 13 years for Fenwick girls water polo.
Fenwick coach Jack Wagner credits the sustained excellence of the program to the players.
"My hat is off to the girls," Wagner said after winning state last season. "I'm lucky the program has been very successful. It doesn't have a lot to do with the guy in charge and it does have a lot to do with the kids. I've got the best kids."
Huskies stall in sectional semis
Crosstown rival OPRF didn't fare as well as the host Friars in sectional action. The boys team started well with an opening-round 14-3 win against Riverside-Brookfield but lost 10-6 to conference foe York in the quarters.
The girls squad experienced a similar journey with an 11-1 rout of Prosser followed by a disappointing 5-4 loss against York in the sectional semifinals. The Huskies' Tamsen Cronin had three goals and four steals while goalie Kaitlyn Peterson tallied seven saves. Cronin also scored two goals against Steinmetz, while nine teammates each had a goal including goalie Sara Flynn (goal, 4 saves).
"I think that our team came very far defensively," OPRF coach Beth Perez said. "In the end, holding a team like York to five goals, twice, is a feat. We were very disciplined on the defensive end and the girls learned fast after each of our games."
The Huskies finished 17-13 this season and third in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
"I was uncertain about how the team would end up this year." Perez said. "I have been pleasantly surprised with their work ethic, dedication and stamina. It takes a lot to make a winning season when you lose your top scorers for the past two years. The girls did a great job."
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