As boys water polo hits the postseason this week, there is no team that leapt out of the water for a turnaround like Naperville North. The Huskies just ended the regular season with a 10-9 win over defending state champion, Stevenson and hold the number one seed in the Neuqua Valley sectional thanks to a 20-4 record.
“Last season was rough I didn’t even actually know if we were gonna have enough players for a team with Covid and the changing of seasons and everything I had a couple great players that I have this year that were able to play other sports last year.” Said Kelly Reif.
A year ago, The Blue and Orange limped their way into the 2021 postseason after finishing in last place in the DVC, ending the year with a 14-3 loss to Naperville Central in the sectional quarterfinals. Now second year head coach Kelly Reif knew that the traditional 2022 season would boost the confidence in the water.
“I joked at the beginning of the season that my is to be the most improved team in the state and I can say pretty confidently I think we’ve accomplished from going to the very bottom to the very top or near the very top. I knew who I had coming in and I knew I had two talented freshman coming in and I knew I had some returners coming back I knew we would be good I didn’t know necessarily that we would be this good but it’s been a fun season to watch them grow.” Said Reif.
One of those Freshman is her son Jack, who made a name for himself right away. He and Mason Hoffman are the two youngsters who teamed up with many experienced polo players on the roster. Reif has coached her son and Mason in club polo, so she knew they had a lot in their tool kit even before jumping into the North pool.
“He’s a talented kid as is Mason are other freshman coming in who’ve I coached for years also so I knew that just talent wise they were gonna be good additions to the team and solid additions, so it was exciting for me. Said Reif. I know that she’s a great coach, she played in college so I knew that she had a lot of experience behind her so I just knew that she would take this team really far and just do great things.” Said Jack Reif.
As for Jack, having his mom on the pool is a big advantage, but knows that relationship is slightly different outside of the household.
“She’s just another coach on the pool deck to me so I just gotta make sure I treat her like a regular coach and stuff like that.” Said Jack.
As for Reif herself, she is no stranger to the Naperville area. She played Water polo in high school at Waubonsie Valley, then took her talents to Indiana University. After getting into coaching, she then spent two seasons as the boys coach at Neuqua Valley and now here she is at Naperville North. While she hopes to help bring in the program’s first state title, the new leader wants to send this squad out on a high note.
“I think coaching is all about building relationships with people no matter who it is and meeting the kids where ever they’re at on their level so to me winning is awesome but building relationships and making better people out of them is so much more important to me.” Said Reif.
Hoping to make a state tournament appearance for the first time since 2014, the Huskies opening game in the postseason will be against either Sandburg or St. Charles East. Eventually, the team could very well face a matchup in the sectional championship against longtime rival, Naperville Central. Regardless of who they play, it will be exciting to see how far these dogs will swim.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Patrick Codo