EVANSTON — The Maine South girls water polo team had its best record in school history a year ago, winning 25 games and narrowly losing to New Trier in the CSL title game.
This year’s team looks vastly different from that squad. The Hawks lost a bevy of seniors to graduation and had to replace “basically all our starters,” Maine South coach Sarah Gershon said.
In spite of that, the Hawks reached high levels of play in recent weeks. They beat St. Charles North 11-7 at the St. Viator Tournament on April 19, and then beat Conant 7-6 in overtime on April 22. Maine South played strong defense to defeat the North Stars and Cougars, who are both ranked in the top 25 by illpolo.com.
However, the Hawks suffered an 11-1 loss to Evanston on April 24.
After scoring just one goal against Evanston for the second time this season, Gershon said the Hawks’ focus was going to be on “going back to the basics — dropping passes into the correct spot, [making] really good passes, trying to draw fouls.”
She added: “It’s just really getting these guys to work together and start communicating.”
Gershon and senior Giles Molloy agreed that the loss to Evanston wasn’t the Hawks at their best. They struggled to generate offensive opportunities against the skilled Wildkits, who are one of the state’s strongest defensive teams and were ranked No. 10 in the state by illpolo.com as of Monday. The Wildkits pressed each Maine South player and rarely fouled, which made it very hard to generate space to complete passes, run the offense and get clear shots on goal.
Maine South’s offense also was stagnant for large portions of the match against Evanston.
“I kind of felt that Maine South in the past has swam a lot — in the water they’re just constantly moving. And tonight they weren’t,” Evanston coach Andy Miner said. “I think they’ve kind of switched up their offensive approach a little bit” since the Wildkits’ 10-1 victory on March 22.
Molloy added: “I think we were a little bit intimidated by them. We played them in a previous tournament and we were a little scared.”
While Maine South has established that it can beat high-level teams such as St. Charles North and Conant, playing at that level against familiar competition like New Trier, Evanston and Loyola in the CSL tournament and the state tournament will be crucial.
“As a team, we need to work on that,” Molloy said.