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New Trier boys water polo goalie Graham Woolley makes most of lone varsity season

GLENVIEW — At the first boys water polo practice of his junior season, Graham Woolley said his coach told him to be ready to start the following spring.

Clearly, the New Trier senior heeded David Goodspeed’s words.

In his first season as a starter, Woolley evolved into one of the best goalies in Goodspeed’s 19 seasons with the Trevians. The coach said if Woolley was in the net a year ago, New Trier would have won the state championship. Last spring, the Trevians ended their season with a 10-9 loss to Naperville North in the state quarterfinals.

“He kept us in games this year,” said Goodspeed, whose club finished 17-11 and lost to Loyola 13-4 in the Glenbrook South Sectional semifinals. “He was good at blocking shots and making passes down [the pool]. He also made steals. He came out of goal to get the ball.”

Stuck behind three seniors as a junior, Woolley accepted his place in the pecking order last season.

“I had pretty much no chance to play last year,” Woolley said. “I think I played less than 10 minutes on varsity.”

During the offseason, Woolley committed to improving himself in an effort to earn a starting spot. He attended multiple camps and clinics in the summer and played club at North Beach Water Polo, which is run by Evanston girls water polo coach Claire Howie, a former standout college goalie.

“She’s fantastic,” said Woolley, who also credited North Beach coach Gerrit Adams for his development. “She was extremely helpful.”

At North Beach, Woolley said he learned how to take charge and become a leader in the pool.

“The biggest difference between this year and last year is I know the game now,” Woolley said. “I am better at communicating. I [was] able to tell my team which shots I’d rather take on.”

Woolley plans to walk onto the boys water polo team at the University of California at San Diego in the fall.