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Melissa Gartenberg, Allison Travetto among Stevenson’s blessings

LINCOLNSHIRE — Stevenson junior Melissa Gartenberg and sophomore Allison Travetto emerged as one of the best scoring combinations in the state this season. They combined for 268 goals and led the Patriots’ girls water polo team to a third-place finish at the state tournament.

A combination that is this good, this soon doesn’t come around all that often. Jeff Wimer, who began coaching girls water polo at Stevenson in 1998, understands that.

“I’m lucky,” Wimer said. “I feel I’m blessed.”

Before emerging as an elite duo, Gartenberg and Travetto followed two very different paths.

Travetto is a product of the age-group club program. She was one of the most experienced players in each game Stevenson played this season, with five or six years of playing water polo before entering high school, according to Wimer.

That experience shows during matches. She’s a pure goal scorer, savvy and unafraid. Travetto hit the post on her first three shots against New Trier in the state quarterfinal. It was her first time in the state tournament setting, but she stayed aggressive. Travetto wound up scoring a team-high five goals to lead the Patriots into the state semifinals.

Travetto was the leading scorer with 15 goals at the state finals this year. She finished the season with 153 goals scored.

Gartenberg had never played water polo before trying it as a freshman.

“My sister [Brittany Gartenberg, a 2013 Stevenson graduate] was on the team previously, and she got me into it,” Melissa Gartenberg said. “I really liked it. I was originally going to do soccer, but I love the sport.”

Despite a lack of club water polo background, Gartenberg made varsity as a freshman and has become just as effective as Travetto. Racking up goals is a big aspect of that — she scored 115 times this season — but so are all the other things she does for the Patriots. She’s excels on defense, led the Patriots with more than 100 assists and is outstanding at drawing kickouts.

Wimer called Gartenberg the Patriots’ best all-around player. She’s half of the reason any conversation about the contenders for the 2015 state title must include Stevenson.

“Both Allison and Melissa are just … two studs,” Wimer said.