Paige Wieser might be the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of prep water polo.
And testimonies from the Marian Catholic senior’s coach and teammates alike only confirm what opponents have witnessed for the last three years.
“She’s a monster in the pool,” Spartans coach Scott Scanlon said. “When Paige gets in a game, it’s like a switch goes on or something.”
Wieser, who stands 5-foot-9, has been a starting driver for Marian Catholic since her freshman year. During that time, she has developed her game from terrifying defender to an equally imposing offensive presence.
Her 45 goals through 11 games this season have helped the Spartans to a 6-5 record. Not to mention a steals total that Scanlon has a hard time keeping track of.
“She’s just so aggressive, and she creates turnovers for herself and her teammates,” said Scanlon, who has been at the helm for Marian for 10 seasons, and a water polo coach for 21 years. “And the way she makes things happen for us on offense, sometimes you just have to turn and shake your head because it’s unbelievable.”
But the real shocker may be who the 18-year-old standout is outside of the pool. When she’s not racking up goals and breaking through heavy defenses, Wieser is known throughout Marian Catholic High School as a much softer soul.
“She’s been my best friend for four years, and it’s still kind of hard to make sense of,” said fellow senior and first year teammate Mary Ann Crosetto. “Out of the pool, she’s very friendly all the time … to everyone. But when she’s in the water, she just puts on this face.
“And then there’s no off switch. She leaves the game with the same intensity that she started game with.”
But much like the character transformation of Jekyll into the monstrous Hyde, Wieser isn’t exactly sure what comes over her once she hits the water.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like, when you’re in the pool, that’s when you can get your anger out,” said Wieser, who made the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference All-Conference team last spring. “It’s a place where you can let loose and have some fun, and that’s what I do.
"I love being able to thrash and tangle it up and just get in on my opponents. That's what this sport is about."
The team co-captain has become such an aggressive part of the Marian attack that opposing defenses have been forced to expend extra resources to stop her.
Not that it really works.
On separate occasions this season, Wiser has posted eight-goal outings, once against Hinsdale South, and again at the expense of Northside Prep. And with the added attention on Wieser, other Spartans have benefited.
“I love being able to make plays for the team, so when defenses press harder on me, I hate it,” Wieser said. “But that allows my teammates to make plays and score, so I’m willing to fight through it.”
And for the better part of three years, Wieser has done just that.
“This team is definitely one of the best teams we’ve ever had, top to bottom,” Scanlon added. “There is a long list of kids on this team that can really play some water polo, and Paige is by far the leader of this team.
“When she decides it’s time to take over a game, that’s exactly what happens. And when she does, I just tell myself that I’m glad I’m not going up against her.”