Years of frustration piled up on Evanston girls water polo coach Andy Miner and his players when it came to falling short of winning the Central Suburban League South division championship.
Arch-rival New Trier held the upper hand for 10 straight years in the CSL South title game – until the Wildkits finally turned the tables on the Trevians Saturday afternoon.
The top-seeded Wildkits downed New Trier 8-6 in the title match of the season-ending tournament to earn the first conference title for the girls program since 2005, ending a 17-year drought.
It’s the first title for a proud head coach who took over 10 years ago and couldn’t find a way to get his program over the top.
Miner said Saturday that it was worth the wait.
“It feels really good to get that monkey off our backs,” Miner said. “I’ve tried to downplay not winning it over the years – all it really means is another number on the board at our pool – but every game matters, whether or not it’s for a championship. So we had a little shift in our mindset, because you have to play your best no matter what’s at stake.
“We had some alums come back from college to come out and support us and our goalie coach was live-streaming it from France. The girls knew what a big burden this was for us and they understood our history of trying to overcome this obstacle. They should enjoy it – they worked hard for it.”
Evanston, now 22-6-2 on the year, scored three victories on Saturday at the Glenbrook North pool. The Kits routed both Glenbrook North (19-2) and Maine South (15-2), then completed a perfect league season by building a 6-2 advantage in the first three quarters against New Trier and holding on for the victory.
Ava Santos-Volpe scored three goals overall as the Kits defeated New Trier for the third time this spring. She netted two of those goals and combined with Hilda Arellano, Morrigan Bushroe-Stumpf and Zayra Arellano to provide a cushion entering the final period that New Trier couldn’t overcome.
“That’s the third time we’ve beaten them and getting that early lead was really important,” Miner noted. “We’ve been so close for so many years [including a three-overtime loss last year] and we were just not able to do it. I think it boils down to the leadership of the eight seniors we have. It shows up at different times, from different girls, and they’ve all worked really hard for this.”
Eleven different players scored for the Wildkits in the opener versus GBN, including three goals from Zayra Arellano, a freshman. Molly Lemmon’s four goals paved the way in the second round against Maine South, as nine different players scored goals for the winners. Evanston and New Trier could meet again for a fourth time next week at the Glenbrook South Sectional tournament, where they are seeded 1-2. The Wildkits will play the GBN-Maine South winner in the opening round on May 12 at 5 p.m. The championship game is set for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 14.