Boys Water Polo: Teamwork is next step in Wolves’ growth as a program
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:35AM
Niles West boys water polo coach John Przekota said his program is building right on schedule as it enters Year Three.
Przekota started the program in 2010, running it as a club team. Last spring, the Wolves took the jump up to varsity, going 9-20 and finishing eighth in the then-nine-team CSL.
This season, numbers appear to be good, athletes understand their roles better and expectations are higher.
“I’m thrilled with the way we are progressing,” Przekota said. “We have 40 kids out and they have been working hard, doing summer water polo and making great improvement. Last year, we were one of the bottom teams in the conference, this year we’re hoping to put ourselves in the upper half.”
Przekota said one of the major adjustments last season was his players experiencing varsity responsibilities for the first time.
“I changed the expectations in practice,” he said. “(As a club team) we just had a JV practice schedule, once a day and not much on Saturday. We went from that, to practicing twice a day and then on Saturday. The commitment was amped up and that did take an adjustment by the kids.”
Another concept has been teamwork, especially for many of the players who swim competitively.
“A lot of the guys had not played a team sport before. This is a different concept to grasp for them,” Przekota said. “Swimming is a team, but it’s more by association. Here, they are understanding what to do to help a teammate on offense, or how to play team defense. It’s a concept the team is still struggling with, but one that got much better during the back half of last year and through the summer.”
The Wolves played their best polo late last season, defeating a Northside Prep team they had tied earlier in the campaign. Even in the sectional defeat to New Trier, Niles West hung with the Trevians for a quarter and a half.
Though Niles West lost leading scorer Elliot Kerbel to graduation, second-leading scorer Ryan Miller has returned to play the two-meter position.
“Miller is like the center on a basketball team. He sets up with his back to the goal and everybody is looking for him. The whole offense runs to him and the defense has to make adjustments designed to stopping him,” Przekota said.
Sophomore Steven Renko and senior Filip Zivkovic are expected to handle the ball and get it to Miller. Renko’s soccer experience has been a plus.
Senior Nick Giffen is a top defender, while senior Stephen Giddens is likely the first player off the bench.
Maz Romanelli served as the team’s goaltender last season, but will transition to outfield player this spring. The junior possesses one of the hardest shots on the team.
Replacing Romanelli in goal will be sophomore Nick Opfer, who was between the posts for the frosh/sophomore team last season and is coming off a strong summer league performance.
Sophomore Kyle Patt and freshmen Max Yusim, Kohler Mohr and Miguel Paloma all are expected to start the campaign with the frosh/soph team, but could be with the big club before season’s end.
Another intriguing prospect is sophomore Edan Scott, the only girl in the program. Scott finished fifth in the state in the 50 freestyle at last fall’s IHSA state meet and is the fastest swimmer on the frosh/soph team.
In the conference, Deerfield and Highland Park have split their co-op program and will operate independently this season, bringing the number of teams in the CSL to 10.
Przekota said New Trier and Glenbrook South are the clear favorites and Evanston is right behind them.
“After that, it’s pretty open,” he said. “Not to say those other teams are weak, but there is an opportunity to make great strides and move up the chain, if we can come together this year.”