Head coach Andy Miner installed a new offense for his girls water polo team this spring, one that encourages creativity from every single player.
What Becca Schumm did Saturday created a niche for herself in the Evanston record book.
The ETHS senior poured in a school record 8 goals in a 17-1 romp over Prospect as the Wildkits finished with a 2-1 record at the New Trier Invitational tournament.
Schumm broke the single game ETHS mark of 7 goals shared by former standouts Anna Ditton (2004) and Ellis O’Connor. Perhaps the most remarkable part of that accomplishment was that she had the energy left to produce that kind of offense in Evanston’s third game of a long, grueling day.
The Kits suffered their first defeat of the season, by a 6-5 margin to New Trier, then bounced back to sweep past Carl Sandburg (9-6) and Prospect as Schumm played plenty of minutes.
But for someone one swam the 500-yard and 200-yard freestyle events for the Evanston swim team, three games in one day resembled nothing more than a distance practice workout.
“I have pretty good endurance, and I felt good, even in the third game,” Schumm said. “I do have a bad shoulder, but I wasn’t too tired today.
“I just see openings and swim — that’s how I scored. I’m always telling the other girls that it’s simple if you just pay attention to the openings (in the defense). I am shocked that I got the record today. I had no idea I was close to it and there are a lot of worthy players who have played here in the past.”
Schumm scored 5 goals in the first half as Evanston built an 11-1 lead at halftime against a Prospect squad that lost all three games in the round-robin tourney. And when Miner learned that Schumm was within striking distance of the record, he had no problem letting the senior standout go for it.
“When she didn’t start the fourth quarter, the other girls were on me about taking her out, because they really wanted her to get it,” Miner said. “And she did pass off a few times when she went back in. The way we run this offense allows them the freedom to run what they want to run, and it’s an offense we’re still learning to run. That’s why I left her in. I didn’t want to take away their creativity.
“Eight goals is a lot. Becca was only our third or fourth leading scorer last year, but today it really clicked for her. She’s really great at recognizing opportunities — and she recognized a lot of them today.”
Schumm’s record-setting goal came with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left in the game. On the day she totaled 12 goals to help the Wildkits improve their early season record to 4-1 overall.
Schumm’s performance was unexpected also because Miner’s system promotes a share-the-shots offense compared to last year, when Honore Collins was Evanston’s go-to player before suffering a career-ending shoulder injury. Collins was eligible to return this season but instead will focus on trying to come back as a swimmer.
So the scoring load will be shared by a veteran team that features only three returning starters — senior goalie Olivia Everhart, Schumm and Stephanie Sheikh.
“As a team we’re good at communicating with each other, and we share the shots most games,” Schumm pointed out. “But this year I’m a captain, so I’m in more of a leadership role and I basically stepped up because I can’t hide behind the others now.”
Evanston bounced back from an opening loss to their rivals from New Trier and the two teams again figure to be top contenders for the Central Suburban League and sectional championships this season. New Trier now leads the all-time series 24-13, but the Trevians had to dig out of an early 2-0 hole when Schumm and junior Riley Hughes scored the only goals in the first period.
New Trier regrouped to take a 6-4 lead with 6:02 left in the game, then held on as Hughes scored on a breakaway to make it a one-goal game with 1:50 remaining. Schumm’s shot off the crossbar and an Evanston turnover preserved New Trier’s win.
In the second game versus Sandburg, the Kits forced 7 turnovers in the opening quarter and rushed to a 6-0 advantage. Schumm scored twice and Hughes added 3 goals for the winners.
Defense also played a role along with Schumm’s offensive explosion in the finale. Evanston humbled the Knights into three shot clock violations in the opening quarter, and seven for the game, as goalie Everhart only faced a total of 8 shots in the entire contest.
“This is the most experienced team we’ve had, and these 14 seniors have stuck together,” Miner said. “When you want to play at a high level, you have to play year around or club for at least part of the year. You can’t just show up in March, and most of these girls have that experience. I think (junior) Giselle Figueroa has been playing since she was 5 years old.
“When you have experience like that, it allows you to get into more advanced play, more team scheme stuff on defense. And you know the commitment is there when they play in the off-season, so you can ask more of a team, because the push and the desire doesn’t come exclusively from the coach.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.