The bus ride home after a season-ending loss isn’t something any high school coach looks forward to.
That’s why it was such a remarkable ride for the Evanston girls water polo team, coming after a 5-4 loss to rival New Trier in the semifinals of the Glenbrook South Sectional tournament on Friday night.
Maybe it’s because Miner and his young team --- only 6 seniors will graduate from the postseason roster --- know that this season could be the start of something big for the Wildkits.
“I’ve never had a team this happy at the end of a season and I’ve never had a bus ride home like this in 7 years as coach,” Miner said. “They weren’t happy about losing, but they knew they put in an effort that was good enough to win and I think they feel proud of the team that they’ve become.
“I’m really proud of the way we played tonight, especially for such a young team, and to see how far they’ve come from the start of the season is really something. We played predominantly freshmen and sophomores tonight and that’s a lot of youth out there. We will lose some good leaders (including Neha Singh) from that senior class, but the future for Evanston water polo is absolutely bright.”
Evanston finished the season with an 18-14 won-loss record and pressed New Trier, a team they had lost to twice during the regular season, to the limit. The Kits had two opportunities on offense to force overtime, but New Trier goalie Sora Seals saved one shot and the other possession ended in a turnover.
“We ran the plays we wanted to run at the end, we just couldn’t convert,” Miner added. “I thought our goalie, Leah Freidman, probably played the best game of her career tonight. New Trier has been a great shooting team from the perimeter all season, but she got a hand on everything they threw at her. She stopped 3 point blank shots at the end of the first quarter to keep us in the game.
Evanston led 2-1 at halftime behind goals from sophomore Maya Weiss and Syd Hollingsworth. Singh and Grace King also found the back of the net for the Kits in the second half.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.