Girls Water Polo: Fenwick ready to goLoyola's goalie Meredith O'Brien makes a save against Fenwick on March. 5, 2012, in Oak Park. The Friars beat the Ramblers 16-7. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 14, 2012 6:50PM
Defending state champion Fenwick’s girls water polo team is more than happy to assume the mantle as the state’s No. 1 squad as the 2012 season begins.
The Friars are just hoping that they are No. 1 when it counts, in late May.
“I don’t know if it matters right now,” Fenwick coach John Wagner said. “We’ve always said that we only want to be No. 1 on one day. It looks good. The alums dig it. But it doesn’t mean a lot to us right now. To be considered the best, I like it, but I’m not going to go overboard at it either.”
Fenwick won five state titles in a six-year span from 2004-09, going 180-8-1 in the process, before Lyons broke up the string in 2010 when it became the first public school to win a girls water polo state title since it became and IHSA sport in 2002.
But the Friars were back last year, and called on three talented freshmen to get them back on top. Cara Borkovec was third on the team in goals and assists as a freshman and Colleen Barron and Alexa Ovalle were key contributors, as well. Along with senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Bonk, they provide the nucleus for this year’s team.
Five key seniors graduated, including leading scorers Annie Collins and Gena Wendt. That means that this year’s Friars may be young on paper, but they are long on experience.
Bonk and Maureen Barron are the only seniors on the roster this season.
“We have a really young team,” Bonk said. “There are only a few that were on the team last year. I think we need a few more games and practices.”
The Friars didn’t have their whole team together until last week, so they were a bit rusty at times in a season-opening win against Loyola. Wagner feels that the Ramblers, once top player Evan Swenson returns next month from club swimming, will be among seven or eight teams with the capability of winning the state title, a far cry from Fenwick’s dominant 2004-09 run.
They will see plenty of those teams at Naperville Central this weekend in the season’s first big invite. Fenwick also gets a heavy dose of competition in the Metro Catholic Aquatics Conference, as Mother McAuley and St. Ignatius figure to join Loyola in the elite team mix all season.
“Our expectations are to be the best we can be going into conference and sectionals,” Wagner said. “If we’re lucky enough to qualify for state, then we’ll sit down and try to figure it out. I have a lot of respect for the other teams. There are a lot of really good coaches and it’s become very, very competitive.”