DES PLAINES — On the first offensive series of Glenbrook South’s opening game in the girls water polo state playoffs, Rachel Spector sprinted toward the net and did her darnedest to jockey for the prime position in the hole set.
It’s something she and the Titans have been working on all season.
Spector, a junior in her first season on varsity, wasn’t able to secure a good spot, and the Titans couldn’t get a shot on goal.
Glenbrook South continued to struggle running its offense through the center of the pool for most of the game. Coach Mike Stancik switched up things in the second half, and the Titans earned an 8-5 win over Maine West on May 13 in the play-in game of the Glenbrook South Sectional.
Still, Stancik, a former state champion player at Brother Rice and in his first season in charge of the girls program, is a proponent of using the hole set as an offensive pivot point. He installed the system this spring.
“I liken it to basketball,” Stancik said. “You try to establish yourself in the center and get a shot from that location. If you can’t, you work the ball around the perimeter.
“But the offense runs through the center person.”
Glenbrook South’s season ended May 15 with a 17-4 loss to top-seeded Loyola in the sectional quarterfinals. The Titans finished 7-20.
Spector, the primary hole set, said the Titans took big strides since the start of the season. She said Stancik made the position a priority during practices.
“We would get together and work on getting position, getting separation,” said Spector, who drilled with senior Rema Abu-Hashim, junior Dana Grad and freshman Nicole Lopatinsky. “We would work on any game-like situations.
“The progress we’ve made from the beginning of the season [was] huge.”
The proof is in the record.
In their first 16 games, the Titans won once and averaged 4.4 goals. Over the final 10 contests, the team went 5-5, averaged 7.6 goals a game and scored eight in the playoff opener.
After the Titans lost their four best players from last season, Stancik said it took time for the girls to step into new roles this spring. Abu-Hashim graduates after scoring a team-best 40 goals, but the team’s Nos. 2-4 scorers all have eligibility left. That includes Spector, who finished with 31 goals.
“The girls built up some confidence as the season went on,” said Stancik, who carried five juniors, three seniors, three sophomores and three freshmen this year. “The biggest trouble was nobody was a producer at the beginning. They then started taking shots, good shots, and getting goals.
“They raised their level of performance.”