ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North senior girls water polo player Sarah Stern found empathy and ecstasy in Thursday’s home rout of St. Charles East.
Not long ago, the North Stars absorbed the wrong end of such games, so pardon Stern and her teammates for basking in a 17-4 victory that continued a torrid start.
“I’ve been on varsity for three years now, and I’ve really enjoyed watching our team grow,” Stern said. “Because when I first started, we didn’t win a game, so it’s really awesome now that we’re coming out really strong.”
North (10-2) attacked the one-win Saints early and often.
With her younger sister, Monica, filming the action from the stands overhead, North Stars junior Nicole Guyett scored the first three of her game-high eight goals in a 1:15 span late in the opening quarter.
Guyett prefers playing offense in the deep end of the pool instead of the shallow, as she can create more drive with her long legs not touching the bottom of the pool. The trend showed, if only subtly.
Guyett’s first-quarter hat trick came with North in the shallow end. In the second quarter, she scored four times against East goalie Jeneva Newman with the North Stars treading water.
With Guyett recovering from a cold earlier this week, North coach Nick Engel sat her for the third quarter. She scored once more in the final quarter and was all smiles after the game.
It’s been that way since Guyett’s swimming teammates coaxed her into trying water polo around this time last year.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I like this,’ ” Guyett said. “I think it just came naturally, really, because I was a swimmer. So I like to pass people down the pool.”
East was missing two starters because of conflict or injury, but coach Stephanie McClure was quick not to use that as a crutch.
She lauded the group’s overall second-half effort after trailing, 10-2, at the break, and tabbed sophomore Lexy Kos (three goals) as “great.”
A two-time state champion as a player at Mundelein and a photographer by day, McClure wants the Saints to stay upbeat.
When the second-year coach took over at East last spring, the program was welcoming its fourth coach in as many seasons.
Newman offers a good base in goal, bringing strong technique and good throwing ability. Megan Zbinden, who also scored for the Saints, has shown exemplary work ethic in cementing a varsity spot.
“It takes awhile to build a program, but we’re getting there and they’re working hard. And the way JV was, too, we’re really learning fast,” McClure said.
“I’m proud of the girls. They’ve made me proud, and we keep adjusting as we come along.”
Thursday’s boys result from the other side of town – East 10, North 9 – offers hope for the future of the girls rivalry. While Stern (seven steals, six goals, four assists) and goalkeeper Hannah Horsfall will be among North’s graduating players, the North Stars and Saints still are ripe with emerging talent.
North rebounded from Wednesday’s road loss to Naperville North and recaptured its confidence.
Not long ago, the North Stars couldn’t say what Guyett did so coolly after Thursday’s game: “Just going out and playing like we usually do.”