Senior all-American and all-stater Jack Bradbury is among few returnees from the Lyons Township High School boys water polo team that finished second in the state last season.
That hasn’t changed the Lions’ lofty aspirations.
“We have high expectations of ourselves. Getting second last year, our goal this year is getting first,” Bradbury said.
The Lions made quite an early statement March 12.
They won the season-opening Stevenson Tournament by beating defending state champion Stevenson 8-6 in the final.
Bradbury had five goals, one assist and four steals. Seniors A.J. Vitek (3 goals) and Jimmy Bolan (3 assists) and sophomore goalie Charlie Vlk (11 saves, assist) also were big contributors.
LTHS (3-0) also defeated Whitney Young 12-5 and Fremd 18-4. The Lions lost to Stevenson 15-8 in the 2021 state championship to finish 20-5.
“It was a challenge to have a rematch of the state championship so early in the season because there are a lot of emotions going into the game,” LTHS coach Doug Eichstaedt said. “But it is a great way to learn about this team and gives us some feedback on what we need to get better at.”
Bradbury earned first-team all-state and third-team All-American honors in 2021 after being second on the Lions with 61 goals and fourth with 18 assists.
Bolan (30 goals, team-best 29 assists in 2021) and Vlk (135 saves versus 142 goals allowed) are the only other returning starters. Vitek (13 goals, 3 assists) and senior Matt Jablonski (6 goals, 5 assists) contributed significant minutes.
Seniors Will Aikens and Matt Garrity, sophomore Luke Jackson and junior Louis Grib-Kozlowski also scored Saturday.
“We have several offensive threats so we will be able to score in a variety of ways,” Eichstaedt said. “I think we have more depth than anticipated and versatility on defense and offense.”
LTHS girls return four starters
The Lions return four starters from their powerful 20-8 team that reached the 2021 state quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Naperville North 13-6.
Senior utility player Novalee Roberto (120 goals, team-high 57 assists in 2021) was first-team all-state and junior hole set Emilia Mladjan (88 goals, 22 assists) was second-team all-state.
Also back are junior goalie Allison Schroeder (227 saves) and junior center defender Evie Reinisch (9 goals, 21 assists) and senior utility players Sofia Hannon (7 goals, 8 assists) and Ella Ruppert (4 goals, 11 assists) as returning letter winners. Newcomers are senior goalie Lilja Waliewski, junior Ava Wright, sophomore Estelle Wright and freshmen Lauren Jablonski and Maya Mladjan.
“We want to bring back our strong defensive mindset from last year, and work on becoming a stronger offensive threat,” coach Megan Jacobs said.
The Lions (3-1) lost to Stevenson 9-6 on March 12 in the title game of the Stevenson Tournament after beating Lincoln-Way East 16-5 and St. Charles North 14-0. They won the season and home opener 12-1 over Hinsdale South on March 10.