FLOSSMOOR | From the time the final buzzer sounded in last year’s 13-6 state quarterfinal loss to Fenwick, the focus for the Homewood-Flossmoor boys water polo team has been on making a return trip to the state finals.
However, if the Vikings are going to make it two years in a row they’ll need to replace the scoring of all-state selection Kevin Kuchta.
While the Vikings have a pair of established scorers returning in Broc Thompson and Haden Santefort, they will look to do more scoring by committee this year.
“Last year teams knew where most of the shots were going to come from,” Thompson said. “This year we’ll make sure we don’t have just one shooter, we’ll be a triple threat and that should make us harder for teams to defend.”
A lot will depend on how quickly the team can come together and find the right combination to put in the water.
“People are going to underestimate us this year because of what we lost,” senior Jakobi McClellan said. “But the new people coming in are willing to work and the guys that are coming back have been working all off-season to get back to the finals.”
McClellan, who was a third team all-state goalie last year, will look to be the backbone of this year's squad by providing a stabilizing presence in the net.
If the offseason was any indication, the Vikings are headed in the right direction as many of them spent time working together in summer clinics and in the Olympic development program.
The key now is getting that work to translate to results in the pool.
“We spent a lot of time together in the off season,” Thompson said. “but summer clinics are different than competitive games, some of the younger guys have never played varsity before so we have to work to bring them together.”
Homewood-Flossmoor will be challenged early by a schedule that features a "who’s who" of the state's elite programs. If the Vikings can survive that they’ll know exactly what they need to do to make another run.
“Coach (Tim Caldwell) does a great job of challenging us with all the top tournaments to get us ready for the sectional,” McClellan said. “From the sectional on you have to play at that top level every game if you want to advance.”
Despite the question marks coming into this season, one thing that the Viking have is confidence that they have the right group of players in place and the talent to be as good or better than last year’s team.
“Last year we came in ready to make a run,” McClellan said. “This year will take a team effort and everyone will have to come together but once we smooth it out the group we have this season can make it back to the finals.”