LINCOLNSHIRE — California is the mecca of water polo in the United States. It’s where the best college programs are located, where playing outdoors year round is possible and where many of the best high school players and club programs play.
For four years, New Trier girls water polo coach Matt Wendt has been telling the members of his team to spend the summer playing club water polo in California. Sophomore Lauren Barrett was the first to actually do it.
Barrett played last summer at San Diego Shores, a program with a history of developing Division I athletes, and her skills blossomed. Despite being an underclassman, Barrett tied junior Stephanie Jodloman with a team-best 41 goals this season.
“Finally someone did it,” Wendt said. “She’s a tremendous talent. She’s going to be a big focus [of the team] in the years to come.”
The next step for Barrett is becoming more aggressive as a prominent piece of the Trevians’ offense.
“I think shooting, taking more risks,” Barrett said when asked where she needs to improve. “As a sophomore, I feel like I’ve been a little more hesitant, so just kind of putting myself out there. … My coach does tell me [to shoot more] — drawing the foul inside the 5 [meters] and just taking the shot.”
New Trier will lose Shannon Kent, Jacqueline Glattard, Natalie Goldman and goalie Zoe Gottlieb to graduation, but Wendt said the Trevians will be good for the foreseeable future.
Barrett and Jodloman are established goal scorers, while junior goalie Keelin Frank and juniors Brittany Bishop and Maria Breen figure to form the core on next year’s squad.
Generating offense was difficult for the Trevians in many games this season — they scored seven goals or fewer 22 times, including a 13-2 loss to Stevenson in the state quarterfinals Friday — and improving that hinges on improving individual skill sets.
They don’t have to go to California like Barrett, but summer training will be a point of emphasis.
“Hopefully the girls commit in the offseason,” Wendt said. “You can’t get it all done in two months here. We’re forced to teach them offense, defense, ball-handling skills. It’s just too hard to get it done in two months. You’ve got to get it done in the offseason, so now that they’ve got a taste of this state series, hopefully they get the homework done.”