Senior and third-year starting goalie Allison Schroeder and her Lyons Township High School girls water polo teammates have added a new weightlifting program this season.

With five returning starters from their 2022 third-place state finisher, the Lions once again should be among the strongest teams in the state.

“The whole team’s excited to be in the weight room because a lot of teams do it,” Schroeder said. “We [also] get a lot of one-on-one time with the freshmen that way.”

The Lions have continued high hopes after achieving the program’s first back-to-back state quarterfinal berths in program history.

Besides Schroeder, seniors Emilia Mladjan (center), Evie Reinisch (defender) and Ava Wright (attacker) and sophomore Maya Mladjan (defender) are returning starters from last season’s 31-3-1 finisher.

They edged New Trier 12-11 in the third-place game after losing to eventual champion Naperville North 10-4 in the semifinals.

With another state trip this season, the Lions could earn their first back-to-back, top-three trophies and fourth trophy overall. They won their first state title in 2010 and were fourth in 2015.

“Our main goal is to make it to the championship game at state,” said LTHS coach Megan Jacobs. “[Our returning starters] have gone through highly intense and competitive state games last year when we placed third. This year, many players have come in with a confidence that is rare for high school girls. We are continuing to build upon our set offense and press defense from last season.”

Emilia Mladjan, who play for Michigan next season, earned 2022 first-team all-state honors with graduated Novalee Roberto and Maya Mladjan was third-team all-state. The Mladjans also were all-sectional.

Schroeder was second-team all-sectional and Reinisch was honorable mention all-sectional. Jacobs was sectional coach of the year.

Freshman Bella Recker should be among the key varsity newcomers, who also include seniors Grace Higgins, Abbey Silic, Kaelyn Sloan and Leah Wilson, junior Catalina Dominguez, sophomore Sarsha O’Sullivan and freshman Sienna Pierce.

Schroeder and Emilia Mladjan also will make huge impacts as this year’s co-captains.

“We want to try and connect the whole team, [junior varsity] included. It’s a lot of trying to lead with friendliness, in an encouraging, optimistic way,” Schroeder said. “I’m just trying to help direct the team in the water and just help the underclassmen.”

Emilia Mladjan led the 2022 Lions in goals (147), steals (97) and field blocks (13) and was third in assists (45).

Maya Mladjan was second in goals (110), assists (60) and steals (86). Wright was fourth in assists (39) and fifth in steals (70) with 35 goals. Reinisch (23 goals, 21 assists) was fourth in steals (73). Schroeder made 311 saves and was fifth in assists (30) and sixth in steals (46) with two goals.

Junior attacker Estelle Wright (19 goals, 21 assists, 42 steals in 2022), junior driver Tess Filipak (6 goals, 5 assists), and sophomore Lauren Jablonski (12 goals, 5 assists) also are varsity returnees.

“Outside shooting is a big [key for success]. We have a big hole set [Emilia Mladjan] and we know she’s going to be dropped on,” Jacobs said. “The second key will be keeping set on defense and not getting ejected from driving offenses. That was one of our weaknesses last year.”

On March 11, the Lions (3-1) lost to Stevenson 12-4 in the championship match of the Stevenson Tournament after beating Lincoln-Way East 15-4 and St. Charles East 16-4. They beat Hinsdale South 15-1 in the tourney opener.

“The goals are very high,” Schroeder said. “The better we work together and the better we get together outside the pool, the better we’re in the water.”