Boys Water Polo: Senior-laden Lockport expects big things
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media March 4, 2013 9:16PM
Lockport's John Goetz tends the goal during water polo practice Thursday, February 28, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Water Polo 2013
AREA TEAMS TO WATCH
Lincoln-Way Central: New coach Jim Lock will look to turn around a team that won just four games last season. Seniors Jake Muellerschoen, Alex McCormick, Steve Grill and Alex Smith all are returning varsity performers. Mike Molchin takes over in goal.
Lincoln-Way East: Despite going 7-22, the Griffins had some solid wins in 2012. They will look for more consistency this season, though replacing leading scorer Tom Vander Velde will be a challenge. Goalie Dominick Malinauskas will lead what should be a strong defense.
Lincoln-Way West: Eric Olson moves from assistant coach to head coach to try to improve on last year’s two-win season. He has a good core of seniors to work with, led by returning top scorer Kurt Butterfield and goalie Mark Carroll. Junior Tanner Gullicksen is back in the defensive hole spot.
(in alphabetical order)
Kurt Butterfield, Sr. Utility, Lincoln-Way West: Butterfield led the Warriors with 54 goals last season.
Jake Elias, Sr. Driver, Lockport: The Porters’ fifth-leading scorer in 2012 with 23 goals, Elias will be heavily counted on this season.
Dominick Malinauskas, Sr. Goalie, Lincoln-Way East: Malinauskas came on strong toward the end of last season and comes into this season with some experience in net.
Dan Oldendorf, Sr. Driver, Lockport: The speedy Oldendorf figures to be the Porters’ go-to scorer this year.
Alex Smith, Sr. Utility, Lincoln-Way Central: Smith scored 37 goals for the Knights last season and also was the team’s top defender.
Updated: April 6, 2013 6:19AM
It wasn’t long after Lockport’s first state water polo appearance last spring — the Porters earned a quarterfinal upset over Stevenson and took home the fourth-place trophy — that talk about this season began.
“When we were coming home on the bus, the kids were asking, ‘What do you think we’re going to do next year?’ ” Lockport coach Joe Lewandowski said. “Well, we take it one game at a time and I like our possibilities of what our team can look like.
“Long-term goal, we want to be back. We want to play Fenwick and Naperville Central and Lyons. We want to show them what we’ve got as much as we want to see what they’ve got.”
The Porters’ quest for a return trip to state begins March 12 when they host Metea Valley.
The team will have a new look to it with the graduation of last year’s leading scorer, David Hir, and goalie Matt Yeager, but it will be a senior-laden squad with plenty of big-game experience.
Senior Dan Oldendorf was second on the team last season with 89 goals, and he’s embracing a leadership role this year.
“It’s nice to have some control over what goes on,” he said. “People listen to you a lot more when you’re one of the oldest guys on the team. I don’t really feel like I have to be the go-to guy, though. We have a few players that can step up when we need them to.”
Seniors Jake Elias, Jake Knowles and David Presz will be heavily counted on, along with juniors Jake Speechley and Matt Olinski.
Senior John Goetz takes over as the starting goalie after gaining valuable experience filling in for Yeager while he was injured last season. Goetz even got a taste of what it’s like to play at state, taking over in the semifinal loss to Loyola after Yeager was ejected.
“I’m really excited,” Goetz said. “I’ve been waiting four years, practicing hard, for this. It’s my senior year and I’m ready to take over. The experience from last year helps a lot. I know what to expect and I know what I’ll see in big games like at state last year.”
Lewandowski expects Goetz to be one of the main keys to the Porters’ success in 2013.
“Goetz in goal is going to be really nice for us,” he said. “Dan Oldendorf had a really outstanding season last year so he’s a huge asset. What I’m really excited for is guys like Jake Knowles and Jake Elias really stepping up.”
Lewandowski knows he won’t have to give many rah-rah speeches this year as the Porters certainly are motivated by last year’s run.
“After getting to state, everything I’ve seen from these guys over the offseason has been great,” Lewandowski said. “They’ve changed their game. That’s what’s exciting. They’re so much more self-motivated now it’s unbelievable.”
There’s also a new sense of confidence surrounding a team that knows it’s capable of playing at an elite level.
“Our confidence is boosted a lot,” Elias said. “You can see it, especially with the new guys. They’ve seen where we’ve gone and they know it’s possible.
“It’s not just some dream we have. It’s realistic.”