Lyons Township High School senior Emilia Mladjan entered this girls water polo season already signed to play next for the University of Michigan.
It’s only additional fuel for her already strong competitive fire.
“It took a lot off my shoulders. It reassured me but also in a way you want to live up to the name so it’s kind of a good motivator, too,” Mladjan said.
The Brookfield resident and the experienced Lions (18-4) still have unfinished business after taking third in state in 2022 and achieving the program’s first back-to-back state quarterfinal berths.
Mladjan leads LTHS with 84 goals and 21 ejections drawn, is fourth with 32 assists and also has 33 steals.
Senior goalie Allison Schroeder (212 saves, 69 save percentage, 13 assists), seniors Ava Wright (27 goals, team-high 35 assists and 42 steals) and Evie Reinisch (17 goals, 33 assists) and sophomore Maya Mladjan (53 goals, 33 assists, 42 steals), Emilia’s sister, also are returning starters.
Junior Estelle Wright (28 goals, 22 assists), senior Kaelyn Sloan (12 goals, 7 assists) and freshman Bella Recker (8 goals, 14 assists) also are key contributors.
“[Emilia is] our main hole set player. Other teams typically put two players on her,” LTHS coach Megan Jacobs said. “So, she’s not only our leading scorer but she also scores with two people on her most of the time and draws the defense towards her so other people can score.”
Emilia Mladjan also has a greater team impact as co-captain with Schroeder. Even before being officially named, Mladjan was involved in designing and ordering team swimsuits, designing team T-shirts and creating spreadsheets with personal and team goals.
During spring break, she and Schroeder held a dryland captains’ practice that included a scavenger egg hunt.
“[Emilia has] done a lot as a captain on the team management side behind the scenes,” Jacobs said. “I would say her biggest growth [as a player] came between sophomore and junior year.”
The 2022 season truly was the breakthrough for Emilia. She was named first-team all-state and led the Lions in goals (147), steals (97) and field blocks (13) and was third in assists (45). She also had a strong offseason with the East Side Water Polo Club, where Maya also plays.
“The beginning of my summer after junior year was where I was like, ‘I really want to play [in college],’ and I had just begun, I feel like, to show off who I really am as a player,” Mladjan said. “With that came this realization that I want to continue and get better and that means playing in college. Now I am, so I’m very happy about that.”
Michigan initially had shown interest but then underwent coaching changes. New head coach Cassie Churnside, previously a women’s and men’s assistant at Harvard, continued the communication.
Mladjan officially visited and committed in the fall.
They have a program that I really like for water polo and engineering,” Mladjan said. “The school’s great and they have a lot of resources for students and athletes alike.”
The Lions only have lost to Stevenson twice, Lincoln-Way Central and to Mother McAuley, the No. 1 seed ahead of them in the LTHSA Sectional.
Since the McAuley loss, the Lions have won four straight in West Suburban Conference play by beating York, Hinsdale Central, Morton and Oak Park and River Forest.