Since 2001, the Fenwick High School boys and girls water polo have won a combined 18 state championships. Overall, the boys program claims 20 state titles and 31 Chicago Catholic League/Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference crowns and the girls program owns nine state crowns.
In other words, Fenwick is to high school water polo what the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics and Montreal Canadiens represent in their respective pro sports. Of course, the glaring difference is the Friars are poised to bring home more state titles while the aforementioned iconic organizations are in various states of repair.
Who’s counting anyway, right? Actually, the Friars are but not due to any sense of arrogance, but rather the program’s standard of sustained excellence. Reflective of that commitment, the boys team has the Latin term, Veritas (which means truth) displayed on their caps and swim trunks.
“We’re playing that one close to the vest, but yes, ‘Veritas’ is a part of our team slogan this year,” Perry confirmed.
The girls team knocked off defending state champion St. Ignatius 6-3 in the state final last spring. Led by seniors Colleen Barron Alexa Ovalle and Lexi Buglio, Fenwick finished 31-2 en route to its eighth state title.
“Our players give up the pursuit of individual goals, with an understanding that the more success the team has, the more they will be recognized,” Fenwick girls coach Jack Wagner said. “Because of the success at Fenwick, there is a competitive nature when you join the team. You want to make sure you get a year on the banner. The players understand what it means to be a part of what has been established here and the pressure that goes with it.
“We don’t really talk about winning or losing. Instead, we focus on getting our players to realize that how you prepare and how you work along with & trust in your teammates is what will give them the edge.”
The ending wasn’t nearly as pleasant for the Fenwick boys team last spring, which saw its remarkable state finals winning streak come to an end with a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Loyola in double overtime in the championship game.
“We’re hungry this year for sure,” Farmer said. “Hopefully, we can go undfeated- that’s our main goal. We got so close last year [to winning the state championship] so we’re eager to get back there. Our starting six have played together for a while and are all really good friends.”
The Friars, who finished 31-5 in 2014, had never lost in the state finals (going 32-0 since the IHSA first sanctioned the sport in 2002) before Loyola snapped their streak.
A handful of games into this season, both teams have served notice that their customary pursuit of a state title remains in full effect.
The boys (7-1 overall) team went 4-0 to win its own Dan Lynch Classic over the weekend. Senior Danny Farmer scored seven goals and Ryan Masi added two goals as Fenwick edged Naperville Central 10-7 in Saturday’s final. The Friars defeated Stevenson, Lyons Township and Oak Park and River Forest in the earlier rounds. Farmer and St. Ignatius’ Shane Hughes scored the most goals in the tournament with 17 apiece, while Fenwick goalie Will Skowron (filling in for starter Mike Hill) played well with 26 saves.
The Friars return four All-State players this season with Farmer, Masi, Hill and Andrew Bertshcy. Farmer paced the team offensively with 96 goals last season, while Bertschy led in assists (50) and Masi in steals (79). DJ Perez and Jack Mahoney, key reserves last season, slide seamlessly into the starting lineup. Juniors Mickey McGuire, Tommy Martino, Chez Daggs, sophomore Noah Groll and freshman Ivan Soto are expected to contribute as well this season.
“Our biggest strength is our experience,” Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. “These guys really do enjoy water polo. They know there is a lot of hard work to be done, but they enjoy the game.”
“We expect the boys to work hard and swim fast during the swim season and then work hard and play water polo during the water polo season. We have a strong aquatics tradition, and we hope each year to uphold that tradition of excellence.”
The Friars’ tradition of excellence was built in large part by Perry’s father, Dave.
Perry, who has done a tremendous job coaching the boys program the past four years, succeeded his dad, who died in 2011 of cancer. Under Dave Perry, the Fenwick boys water polo team won a total of 17 state titles, including eight-straight IHSA sanctioned state tournaments. The team won 51 straight games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The Friars also won 35 games in both 2004 and 2006. They went 36-0 and took home their eighth-straight state title in 2010 with Kyle, as interim head coach. Dave helped coach the team from a wheelchair during last year’s 16-9 win over St. Ignatius in the title game at Stevenson High School.
“I have never met a man who was so calm and cool in pressure situations,” Wagner said about Dave Perry who he worked with for 17 years. “He was a diplomat, a statesman, so much more than just a coach.”
Fenwick girls team reloads for another state title run
The girls team, which lost eight players to graduation including Barron and Ovalle who are now playing at Bucknell and Marist, respectively, is off to a 3-1 start this spring. Fenwick split a pair of matches the Naperville North Tournament over the weekend. The host Huskies upset Fenwick 13-6 behind seven goals from Katie Horn. Molly McGuire led the Friars with three goals, Catie Wallace scored twice and Kelly Frumkin chipped in a goal. Fenwick bounced back to put away Neuqua Valley 10-6. McGuire and Wallace led the charge again with four and three goals, respectively. Eryn Kulik, Jillian Wickham and Shannon Forst each scored a goal.
Wallace, the Friars’ lone returning starter, earned first-team All-State recognition last season. Senior Maggie Frumkin, juniors Wickham, Kulik, Frost and Anna Sullivan, along with sophomore Kelly Frumkin and the promising McGuire and fellow freshman Cate Mackie all take center stage this season.
“We are going to be young and learning a lot as a group,” Wagner said. “If we can learn to play together and develop some chemistry, we hope to qualify for the state tournament. From there, we’ll see where it goes.”
If you’re a water polo play at Fenwick, the end of the line typically arrives in the state championship game.