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The Tinley Junction 041218

44 | April 12, 2018 |

44 | April 12, 2018 | The tinley junction Sports BOYS WATER POLO Thunderbolts eying first state trip in program history Fun and togetherness mark Andrew’s team PHIL ARVIA, Freelance Reporter Many teams on the cusp of a new level of success will cite a new feeling of togetherness among squad members. Andrew’s boys water polo team is no exception. “In past years, swimming has been the main priority,” Ian Russell, one of the Thunderbolts’ three senior captains, said. “It was, ‘I’m a swimmer and I play water polo.’ Now, it’s ‘I’m a water polo player and I swim.’” But it’s more than just a change of priority. The togetherness is literal. “We play water polo together, then we swim together, then we play fall and summer water polo,” Russell said. “I’m around these guys all the time. I know some of them better than I know my family — these guys are family.” The Thunderbolts entered the week with a 10-4 record and are enjoying their best start under third-year coach Jeff Hofer. After going 15-15 in Hofer’s first season and 19-11 in his second, they’re pointing toward what they hope will be the first sectional title in program history. “Before year one, we had two players that played club ball outside of the high school season,” Hofer said. “Before my second year we had five and before this year’s we had 15. We’ve seen huge benefits from the kids playing all year ‘round.” Assistant coach John Fitzgerald, the older brother of Andrew’s leading scorer, Joe Fitzgerald, established the summer program. “We probably play 15 games during the summer,” Hofer said. “Now, we’re similar (to the top tier programs). Before, we didn’t play at all.” Andrew’s calling card this season has been defense. “Last year, we lost some games by 10 goals,” Hofer said. “Our losses this year are different.” The Thunderbolts have lost 9-5 to Lockport, currently ranked ninth in the state by, 6-3 to Lincoln-Way East (No. 16) and 7-6 to St. Rita. They’ve also posted a 9-7 win over Brother Rice at the Saint Patrick Invite. Hofer won three state titles (1980-82) as a player with the Crusaders in the days before water polo was an Illinois High School Association-sanctioned sport. Rice has three IHSA state trophies in water polo since 2002 and hasn’t finished outside the Sweet 16 since 2012. “We knew about that,” Justin Hovorka, another senior captain, said. “It was fun (to beat Hofer’s alma mater), but I don’t think it changed the way we played.” And that way is defense first. “Our defense is phenomenal,” Hovorka said. “Our mentality is to stop everything that comes at us.” It’s a team effort. The Thunderbolts’ ideal — two goals or fewer per quarter — has been met more often than not because they communicate. “(Joe) Fitzgerald stands out because of his scoring ability,” Hofer said. “But defensively, they’re all very, very strong. It’s a combination of being physical and being able to anticipate — but a big part of it is help defense. That’s key. “It takes a ton of communication — and that’s rare with high school boys. Usually, they don’t like to talk much.” Yet, they all warmed to the topic of defense. Even Fitzgerald, who scored more than 100 goals last season and had 48 through this season’s first 13 games, preached defense first. “We’re definitely defensivefocused,” Fitzgerald, who is pondering offers to play at La Salle and McKendree Universities, said. “We try to get our goals on fast breaks and transition.” And usually off the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Fitzgerald’s explosive arm. Fitzgerald played travel baseball before gravitating to the pool. “I pitched,” he said. “When I Andrew’s Josh Willner has a little fun as his team held an unscheduled practice on April 2 when the Thunderbolts were supposed to host Brother Rice, but the Crusaders did not show up. PHOTOS BY JEFF VORVA/22ND CENTURY MEDIA was 14, I threw upper 70s from the stretch. That’s probably where it comes from.” Unlike baseball, Fitzgerald likes bouncing most of his throws these days. “The majority of my shots are skip shots,” he said. “It’s unpredictable. The goalie doesn’t know where it’s going.” But, after checking out of the playoffs in the sectional quarterfinals the last two seasons, and the sectional semis in Hofer’s first year — the first and last of those ousters by Lincoln-Way Central’s hands — the Thunderbolts know exactly where they’re going this year. “The first team at Andrew ever to go to state in water polo,” Hovorka said. “I have no doubt.” Sports the tinley junction | April 12, 2018 | 45 ANDREW BASEBALL AND GIRLS SOCCER Thunderbolts adapt and win on the fly JEFF VORVA, Sports Editor It wasn’t impossible to play outdoor sports with the wind, rain, snow and cold, but it wasn’t easy, either. Still, Andrew’s baseball and girls soccer teams had to make some adjustments on Saturday, April 7, before pulling off a couple of huge victories. The Andrew (7-1) baseball team scheduled a game with powerhouse St. Laurence the day before and the T-Bolts handed the Vikings their first loss of the year with an 8-5 victory in Burbank. Nolan Fasel fired the win and Scott Youngbrandt, who was coming off a minor left elbow injury, cracked a home run. Jake Platiak and Mike Carey each added three hits. The 14th-seeded girls soccer team played its PepsiCo Showdown Classic game an hour later than its scheduled starting time and came up with a 1-0 victory over thirdseeded West Aurora in the U.S. Navy bracket at Olympic Park in Schaumburg. Megan Nemec scored in the first minute. Samantha Koppers recorded an assist. Andrew (8-2) received strong defensive play from Brigid Tunney, Addison Lim, Allison Jensen, Mia Milazzo and Nicole Koppers. Gabriela Sportiello notched the shutout in goal. Andrew’s Megan Nemec, shown in a match earlier this season, scored the lone goal in the T-Bolts’ upset win in the PepsiCo Showdown Classic. JEFF VORVA/22ND CENTURY MEDIA high school highlights The rest of the week in high school sports SOFTBALL Andrew 18, Homewood- Flossmoor 5 Kaitlin Tholl homered and drove in four runs, Balie Hess had three hits and drove in three runs, Ella LeMonier had a pair of doubles, Katie McLaughlin added a home run and Kaitlyn Lynch drove in three runs April 2. BASEBALL Titans win two Brandon Leonard threw nohit ball through four innings, striking out 10 in a 12-2 win over Hillcrest in the first game of a doubleheader on April 2. He also homered and drove in two runs while Ryan Zientara scored twice and drove in two runs. In the nightcap, the Titans won 12-2 as Mike Laib struck out 12 in five innings while Austin Omiecinski had two hits and Ryan Grand scored three runs. LACROSSE Andrew co-op 8, District 228 5 Nick Redman scored two goals while Jack Teschke, Mark Teschke, Aiden McKernan, Tim Krafcisin and Danny Slater each scored goals in a game on April 4. BOYS GYMNASTICS Andrew co-op 111.6, Homewood-Flossmoor 106.8 Junior Sawyer Mackovitch led Andrew with a 40.8 all-around score. Compiled by Sports Editor Jeff Vorva SPORTS BRIEFS Attack Rookie Program registration open The Attack Volleyball Club’s Spring Rookie Program registration is open and it will run from Friday, April 13 through May 18. For more information and to register, visit: Shooters looking for players The Southside Shooters eighth grade basketball team is looking for two players to fill its spring roster. The team will consider strong seventh grade players, playing up. For more info or to schedule a tryout call coach Bill Finn at 708-508-0170 or email finn@ For further information, contact Bill Lammel at (708) 289-3438. Compiled by Sports Editor Jeff Vorva