Boys Water Polo: Loyola looking to uphold league tradition at state
Loyola's Charlie Dowdle (18) takes a shot over Fenwick's Dan Kelly (3) on March. 5, 2012, in Oak Park. The Friars beat the Ramblers 13-8. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:33AM
The Loyola boys water polo team will enter its state quarterfinal match against Latin today (Thursday) with the responsibility of continuing a 37-year streak.
“The Catholic League has been winning this thing for a long time,” said Loyola’s Charlie Dowdle, who scored four goals in the Ramblers’ 10-9 sectional final win over New Trier. “We want to keep that tradition going, so we want to win (a state championship).”
A Catholic League team has won the boys water polo state title every year, starting with Fenwick in 1974. For the last eight seasons, the Friars have carried the torch.
But in the aftermath of Loyola’s dramatic win over New Trier, word quickly made spread through the Ramblers’ locker room that Fenwick’s run had ended with a 8-7 loss to Lyons Township in the York sectional final. With St. Ignatius also losing its sectional final, the Ramblers are the sole Catholic League team remaining.
After defeating New Trier, the Ramblers basked in the accomplishment of beating their old rival, also the No. 5 team in the state. That test, like Fenwick’s game against LT — the No. 1 team, according to Illpolo.com — was akin to prevailing in a state semifinal game.
“The way it works now is you can play the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the state (at sectionals), like you saw with Fenwick and Lyons,” Dowdle said. “New Trier is No. 5 in state, and we’re third. We knew it was going to be a battle. It’s unfortunate that it has to be this early in the playoffs that we play each other. It was definitely the intensity of a state semifinal game, and the level of competition was definitely the same you’d see in the state semifinal game.”
With Fenwick eliminated, the path to a state championship seems clearer. For Loyola, what started out as a half-hearted vow four years ago among the Ramblers’ deep, talented senior class now lies within the squad’s grasp.
“Freshman year, we kind of joked, ‘Let’s win state,’ ” Loyola senior Brendan Hulseman recalled. “But we actually have a shot this year. Fenwick just lost, so I mean all bets are off. There’s one less team to beat.”
When Loyola goes for the program’s first state title since defeating Fenwick in 1978 — while simultaneously trying to continue the Catholic League’s dominance — the Ramblers will largely rely on the experience of exceeding expectations and finishing third in 2011’s state tournament.
Besting New Trier in the Glenbrook South sectional final also strengthened the Ramblers’ belief in one other.
“Right now, there are not so many Catholic League teams in it,” said Loyola goalie Robbie O’Connor. “So it’s a lot of responsibility for us. We’ve got a lot we’ve got to do — for not just us, but for the league itself.”