Water polo: Naperville Central's Hunter nears 100-goal milestone

By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/28/2022 6:07 PM

Naperville Central senior Annie Hunter is heading into the final stretch of a memorable career.

Hunter has been a catalyst on the Redhawks since the middle of her freshman season, when she was promoted to the varsity.


She's closing in on a 100 goals for the Redhawks (18-7, 3-1 DuPage Valley) for the season. Naperville Central girls water polo coach Jeff Plackett said Hunter's the unquestionable leader on his team.

"Annie has been a super steady presence for us," Plackett said. "She's coming up on about 100 goals for the season. That's a nice benchmark for a leading scorer, but she has a tremendous amount of humility.

"Annie has a tremendous work ethic. She's brought with her an attitude of a kid looking to do all the little things right consistently. Annie's a good example for the younger girls to look up at."

Junior goalie Clare Shiffer is playing well, according to Plackett. Schiffer has been consistent in the net, helping raise expectations for a long playoff run.

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"We've been excited about Clare's play," he said. "She's been really balanced in her shot blocking and does a nice job of looking up the field and leading the counter attack. She's getting good at moving the defense where she needs to be."

The Redhawks opened the season on a tear, winning their first 11 games, including defeating Waubonsie Valley twice and knocking off Lincoln-Way East. Since then, Plackett said his team has split their last 14 games, which includes a grueling 14-13 loss to highly ranked Maine West on Tuesday.

Naperville Central closes the regular season at the Stevenson Invite on May 7.

"We got to a real nice start in March, but we've been a little inconsistent since then," he said. "But we've played some really good teams, including some nice wins over some good teams in those seven wins. Those losses are seven opportunities for us to look back at how we played, and to see some things that are correctable. With our training schedule, we go hard four mornings a week with conditioning before school. We're at that point where we're about to cut back and taper off for sectionals.

"We've spent the better part of the season focused on our counter attack, now looking more in-game situations where we're going with the ball and the offensive rotations when obviously counter attacks are not there. We're working to help out our goalie. We're working on when that decision for the first pass is not as obvious, and we run into teams with the same amount of speed, and then what we're going to create the outlet pass for our goalie."


Naperville North girls update:

The Naperville North girls water polo team is currently No. 2 in the most recent illpolo.com state girls rankings. The Huskies (21-1-1, 4-0) travel to No. 1-ranked Stevenson next Wednesday for a key playoff tuneup for both teams. Naperville North's lone loss came against New Trier along with a tie with Fenwick.

"The girls are doing an awesome job this year," Naperville North coach Andy McWhirter said. "We've got a lot of talent on the team. We've got those next-level athletes on the team and a super hardworking group of girls, from the morning practices to afternoon practices. We're getting ready for state. The girls are willing to get in the pool in the morning and after school and are a close-knit group of girls. It's a close-knit family and they support each other. They push each other hard."

Sophomore Kelsey Wessel leads the Huskies with 54 goals, senior Mia Sparacino has 29 goals and a team-best 48 steals while Alex Mantel (45 goals), Claire Jensen (36 goals), Sarah Crossett (35 goals), Sophie Raquel (34 goals) and Cambria Swanson (30 goals) account for a well-balanced attack for the Huskies to offset the graduation of Anna Tarantino, a freshman on the Loyola Marymount team.

Senior goalie Ella Selman has 235 saves and scored 7 goals this season to help the Huskies earn a quality 13-12 victory over Lyons on Tuesday.

"Last year we had a standout in Anna, but this year the defense of the other team can't just pick up one girl," McWhirter said. "We have a balanced offense and an outstanding goalie who has scored points for us from the goalie position, which is another threat to take into account.

"We had a great game against Lyons on Tuesday, a state caliber game. Lyons played hard, and the girls stepped up and it got close. It was 12-12 in fourth quarter, but Alex Mantel scored the game-winning goal. We did a nice job running out of the clock. It was one of those great sports games, the crowd was going wild."

York boys celebrate:

The York boys water polo team honored its four seniors in the best possible way -- a 13-4 victory over Neuqua Valley on Thursday.

Those seniors -- Matt Czech, Hugo Allaume, Matt Skwiot and Jack Schroeder -- have helped the Dukes overcome the loss of their top four scorers from last season to win 18 of their first 24 games, including a 3-0 record in the West Suburban Silver.

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