Riverside-Brookfield High School boys water polo coach Peter Murphy did a heckuva job this season even though he won’t be around to see it through till the end. Although the Bulldogs (15-14-1) have improved dramatically from last year’s dismal 6-18 mark, Murphy stepped down as the coach last week. Longtime RBHS swim coach Heather Mathis takes over coaching responsibilities for the rest of the season.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” RBHS player Paul Sitkiewicz said. “Some players that liked what Murphy was doing knew they had to adjust and move on and get along with the new coach. [Mathis] has been at our games already and she is also the swim coach, so we all know her and get along fine with her. I think we’re headed in the right direction again.”
Mathis’ run as the Bulldogs’ poolside skipper could be short-lived; however, as RBHS opens the postseason against well-regarded Oak Park and River Forest at the Lyons Township Sectional on Wednesday, May 14 (8:15 p.m. match). In an earlier meeting this season at the Stagg Invite, OPRF escaped with an 11-10 win against the Bulldogs. The Huskies and Bulldogs are the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, respectively, in the stacked sectional.
“[Oak Park-River Forest] is a fast team, but we’re pretty quick too,” Sitkiewicz said. “We have to make sure our defense is good and that we’re not getting exclusions in the hole. We’ll have to step it up on offense and make sure that we’re taking good shots and getting open shots. It’s a very real possibility that we could win that game.”
The winner of the RBHS-OPRF match advances to Friday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal against most likely sectional host/No. 2 seed LTHS. Top seeded Fenwick is in the upper half of the sectional draw. The title match is Saturday, 11 a.m. at LTHS pool located on the South Campus.
Regardless of how the playoffs shake out, the Bulldogs have enjoyed several wonderful moments this season especially during the RB Invite. The Bulldogs rolled to home victories over Morton, New Trier JV and Hoffman Estates before finally losing to Maine East 8-6 in the RB Invite finale. A plethora of players have stepped for RBHS this spring, notably Paul Sitkiewicz, Tim Somers, Dominic Rosa, Anthony Colon, Zach Temmer and Kevin Garza.
RBHS girls team takes on sectional host Lions
The RBHS girls water polo team drew a tough opponent in the opening round of the state playoffs, Lyons Township High School. The Lions finished second in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division tournament, dropping a 6-4 overtime thriller to OPRF.
Although the Bulldogs (11-17) are a far less formidable opponent for the Lions on paper than OPRF, which is 24-2 and one of the best teams in the state, RBHS is confident entering its Thursday meeting (8:15 p.m.) with LTHS. Fenwick and OPRF are seeded No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with the sectional title match scheduled for Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
“[Lyons Township] is really fast,” RBHS senior Catie Kartje said. “We’re conditioning and trying to get to their speed and we just have to really be prepared for that.”
Fellow senior Amy Frey also directed praise toward the Lions.
“[Lyons Township] has great swimming ability and they’ll give us some really hard shots,” Frey said. “They are going to give us some really hard shots so we just have to be on our toes.”
The Bulldogs raced out to a promising 4-0 start this spring under new head coach Maria-Elena Agrela but struggled the rest of the season losing 17 of their last 24 matches. Nevertheless, the players remain confident and are enjoying the season, win or lose.
“Our season is going pretty well,” sophomore Hannah Flynn said. “We’ve had some off games like every other team does, but we have been getting better throughout the year because we’ve had more time to practice. I think we have a good chance at sectionals.”
Team chemistry has been a plus this season and bodes well for the future as Agrela further develops the program.
“The way we all work together is great,” Frey said. “We have so much fun together win or lose. We’re all really supportive of each other and we’re always there for each other. That’s what really makes this team special.”