Boys Water Polo: Niles West rides second season surgeNiles West's Max Romanelli is harrassed by New Trier's Joey Ryan (top) and Jason Bartha during the Boys Water Polo match on Thursday, April 19, 2012. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 24, 2012 8:50PM
Entering their second varsity season after going 6-19 last year, the members of the Niles West boys water polo team knew they would be improved this season.
But ask them about the likelihood of putting together an 11-game winning streak, which included wins over Stagg, Maine East and Glenbrook North, and their reaction largely mirrors Ryan Miller’s.
“I expected us to be a little bit better, but this 11-game win streak really surprised me,” said Miller, a junior and one of the Wolves’ captains. “I thought it was just amazing. Here’s a team where we only won six games last year and then all of a sudden we come out and make an 11-game win streak. That’s pretty crazy, in my opinion.”
Niles West’s winning streak was the best string of water polo played in program history and provided the team with a unifying sense of belief, especially after defeating programs with a much longer history.
“We’re starting to show that we can compete on a high level,” Niles West coach John Przekota said. “It’s just these guys showing the consistency and believing that they can do it all of the time (that Niles West now needs).”
Niles West has gotten production from myriad players this season.
The Wolves are led by co-captains Miller and Filip Zivkovic. Miller provides strength in the pool, working as Niles West’s post-up player near the goal.
Niles West’s supporting cast has been particularly strong, as well. Arguably the biggest surprise this season has been sophomore Kyle Patt, who was called up mid-season and has quickly shot up to third on the team in goals scored.
Max Romanelli has also played well, standing out in Niles West’s match against New Trier April 19. Romanelli scored four goals and defended New Trier standout Jordan Palmer.
For Romanelli, transitioning from Niles West’s goalie last year to a field player this season has made him feel like more a part of the team.
“Conditioning has a lot to do with it, but it’s also so much more fun,” Romanelli said of switching positions. “I feel like so much more integrated in the team and I play a much bigger part in the field.”
While Niles West (16-7) has been pleasantly surprised with its improvement during its second season, Przekota knows the team still faces hurdles.
More specifically, Niles West must overcome being intimated by talented, prestigious water polo programs like New Trier. The Wolves battle the Trevians to a tie at halftime last week, before New Trier pulled away for an 18-8 victory.
“That’s one of the things that we’re trying to teach our team is that no matter where you’re playing or who you’re up against, it’s about that game that day, not about what they’ve done to you in the past or what they’re going to do the next time they play you,” Przekota said. “So you’ve got to come out swinging.”