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Wait 'til next year for Mighty Macs

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mother McAuley water polo players lift the state fourth-place trophy on Saturday in Lincolnshire. They hope to hoist a state championship trophy next year. 

The players barely dried off and seconds after receiving their fourth-place medals, some Mother McAuley girls water polo team members were already looking ahead to next year.

The Mighty Macs finished the 2017 campaign losing to Stevenson, 13-7, in the semifinals and Fenwick, 8-5, in the third-place game of the Illinois High School Association Girls Water Polo State Finals Saturday at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. It was the second year in a row the Macs finished fourth.

But this year’s team, which finished 24-8, came into the season with no seniors and a lot of question marks. So a fourth-place finish was not taken lightly.

The girls water polo state series started in 2002 and McAuley won the first two state championships in the history of the tournament and added another title in 2007. With a wealth of talent scheduled to return next year, the Mighty Macs should be one of the favorites to grab the top trophy in 2018.

“Next year, we’ll be first,” junior goalie MaryKate McKendry predicted. “We’re coming in strong. We will have a lot of seniors – it’s going to be great.’’

Some off the offensive weapons who are scheduled to be back include West Lawn’s Paulina Correa, who scored more than 100 goals this season, Becky Schofield, Jillian Mueller, Kate Fischer, Chloe Ryan, Katie Alberts, Hannah Engquist and Erin Breakey, who all had double-digit goal or assist totals this year.

There could be a couple of secret weapons in the mix although they don’t figure to be secret too long.

Team manager Jill Schultz won a medal but plans on resigning from that role to get back in the pool. Schultz was a scoring machine for the Bremen Coop team and made all-state third team in 2015. In 2016 she transferred to Mother McAuley and had to sit out a year. Her sister, Maddie, is an eighth grader who will likely join the team next year. Jill’s older sister, Hannah, was an all-state player who is one of the top players at Iona College.

Stevenson won the state championship with a wild 14-13 double-overtime victory over defending champion Naperville Central. The Mighty Macs are hoping to have a spot in that final game next year.

“It was nice winning fourth place, but next year we don’t want to finish fourth,” Correa said. “We have everybody back. Naperville Central is losing a lot of players. Stevenson might be losing one or two. Fenwick might be losing four.

“But us? We’re gaining. We’re not losing. I’m really proud of us.’’

The work for a potential state championship begins now for the Macs, but they will enjoy the moment of bringing home the school’s 12th top-four trophy.

“I’m not disappointed – we got a medal,” McKendry said. “We played in state and played in the Final Four. We made it. A bunch of schools can’t say that. We have the privilege to say that.’’