With its 16-9 state championship game win over St. Ignatius at Stevenson over the weekend, the Fenwick boys varsity water polo team secured its eighth consecutive state title and 13th over the last 14 years.

Naturally, the Friars’ unprecedented run of success in the pool begs the competitive question: What is Fenwick’s secret? Talent, practice, intensity, strategy and skill all offer one word explanations for the Friars’ dynasty. This year’s answer was decidedly more heartfelt.

“We’re a family,” Fenwick senior co-captain Connor Brown said. “I think that makes a huge difference. I didn’t know any of these guys [my freshman year], but over four years we grew into a family. I think our friendship helps because we all know each other so well. We know what each other are going to do in the pool.”

The Friars’ family feeling was magnified on the coaching deck this season as their legendary coach Dave Perry has been battling a reoccurrence of prostate cancer. Perry, who has 17 state titles and a career record of 793-143-2, inspired interim head coach Kyle Perry (his son) and the players by simply spending as much time as he could with them this spring.

Fenwick (36-0) proved too much to overcome for St. Ignatius in Saturday’s title game. Sophomore Matt Farmer scored four goals while Dominic Gallo and Brown tallied three goals apiece. Viken Huening and Rich Mueller both added a goal. The Friars jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one quarter and a 7-2 advantage at halftime en route to victory.

“Before the [Fenwick] sectional, I challenged our players to refocus,” Kyle Perry said. “St. Ignatius was up on us 5-0 [in last year’s semifinal] before we came back to win. It was important for us to get off to a better start this time.
“We didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of this season, so to win it all again is very special.”

Mark Alvarado (5 goals) and Kevin Barth (2 goals) led St. Ignatius (25-8).

Although the Friars routed Sandburg 14-2 in the state semifinals, their road to an “eight-peat” wasn’t always smooth sailing. Lyons Township threatened the Friars’ dominance before Fenwick ultimately emerged with a 10-8 win in the quarterfinals. Fenwick enters next season on a 62-game winning streak.

“Everyone is extremely happy that we won the state championship,” Farmer said. “We worked our butts off. Kyle Perry and coach Dave [Perry] are incredible coaches. I’m excited to come back for two more years and try to win more.”

Fenwick will lose standout goalie Dan Newell, Ted Herbstritt, Brown (112 goals, 60 assists this season), Gallo and six other seniors to graduation. Newell and Brown will play college water polo in California at La Verne and Santa Clara, respectively, next season.
The Friars reload with Farmer (132 goals), Huenning (58 goals, 60 assists), Mueller, Dan Kelly, Mike Hanfland and promising goalie Tommy McGuire in the fold next season. For good measure, the freshmen-sophomore team also went undefeated this season.

Amid so many star players and coaches, much credit belongs to the architect of the Friars’ dynasty, Dave Perry.

“This was a really special season,” he said. “It was hard at times for me because I could not be around the kids all the time. They really worked hard and were so determined this season. It’s been good for me to be around them.”

The Friars celebrated their championship with mass and a team banquet on Sunday night. “Coach [Dave] Perry got several rounds of applause at the banquet,” Brown said. “Winning the title this year for him made it extra sweet.”

Fenwick girls water polo

The Fenwick girls team also rolled to a state title by defeating Stevenson 9-6. Annie Collins led the charge with four goals, while Cara Borkevec netted two.

The win marked the sixth state title for Fenwick.