Andy Miner guided the Evanston girls water polo team to one of the most successful seasons in program history in his first year as head coach last spring.
Now, what will Miner and the Wildkits do for an encore?
Miner hopes to build on last year’s 22-6 won-loss record that included winning the Central Suburban League tournament, although he’ll miss 7 graduated seniors who helped restore the program to a near-elite status last year.
“Last year we were able to change the culture here, and it was driven by those seniors,” said Miner, whose team opens Tuesday at Maine West. “I remember at the beginning of the year we talked about goals and some of them laughed at the idea of going to State. We missed out by one game (loss to St. Ignatius in the sectional tournament finals). Now I tell them they should keep that weekend open at the end of the year, because that’s what we’re striving for.
“We’re just trying to prepare our best because you really can’t focus on a goal that is that far away. These girls have high hopes and high aspirations, and we just want to be playing our best at the end of the season.”
Miner will rely on a core group of three returning starters — senior Millie Rosen and juniors Olivia Everhart and Honore Collins — along with a rising group of underclassmen who could provide more depth than the ETHS program has featured in years.
Everhart is already regarded as one of the top goalies in the state and put in more work in the off-season to maintain a high level of play in the net. Rosen and Collins are also following through with a work ethic that was established by last year’s seniors.
“Millie has already said she’s retired from swimming, and she devoted herself to water polo in the off-season (winter) and played four nights a week,” Miner pointed out. “And Honore is so competitive and so driven, and that competitive edge she has is even more visible in polo than it is in swimming. She’s always on the attack. She has an amazing eye for the game, and she’s so quick to react.
“Honore’s also training for the Junior Nationals (in swimming) and she’s never asked for handouts when it comes to working full sets for us. She never complains, she just comes and works.”
Collins was the squad’s leading scorer last spring and also excels at the defensive end of the pool. She’ll help set the tone for the varsity newcomers, and Miner is excited about the depth he sees developing already in the program.
“Our JV (junior varsity) group was strong, and when they all played together last year, they didn’t lose,” he said. “The contingent behind Millie, Olivia and Honore is incredibly strong. Any question marks we have are good question marks, because there’s a lot of potential for a lot of those players to be really good.
“We can go 11 deep on our bench and we’ll have so many options. That’s what I’m really excited about.”
The ETHS coach will have to replace hole defender Madison Collins, whose quickness was instrumental in foiling enemy offenses last spring. “We have 4 or 5 girls who have worked hard on playing that position in our club. That was our big focus this summer and the club coach, Tim Fodor, has done a great job for us the last three years,” said Miner. “Their progress is a testament to the work he’s done with them.”
Following back-to-back home games against Maine West and Lane Tech Tuesday and Wednesday to open the season, the Wildkits will have to be road warriors for much of the spring. They only have 3 home games after that — March 16 against Whitney Young, April 14 against New Trier, and April 21 against Glenbrook South.
Source: ETHS Sports Information