In 2021, Neuqua Valley boys water polo became just the third Naperville area team to win a sectional championship, eventually bringing home the 3rd place trophy at the State Meet. Over the previous 18 years, either Naperville North or Naperville Central had emerged with the local sectional title. Justin Cornwell brings us the latest Team Profile, presented by Advantage Acura.
The Huskies and Redhawks have had such a stranglehold on the local boys water polo scene, that for the past decade, you could practically pencil the two teams into the sectional championship game before the season even started. But in addition to Neuqua Valley’s breakthrough a year ago, another local team has proven to be an up and comer that is prepared make history of their own. The Waubonsie Valley Warriors are off the the best start the program has even seen this spring. On April 23rd, the Warriors broke the school record for most wins in a single season with 24, after winning the Lincoln-Way West Invite. They also defeated crosstown rival Neuqua Valley for the first time since 2011 earlier this month.
Step by Step Improvement
The progress began late season when the Warriors took a significant step in terms of post season success for the program, advancing to the sectional semi finals for the first time since 2010. This year, the roster returned a large number of key players including seniors like Matt Malik, Rishi Patel, Neil Gupta, Ahmed Kasim, Dylan DiLallo and Evan Fleming.
What makes the future so bright for the green and gold is an exciting group of juniors in Jude Caruso and Keith Cabinian and sophomores like Aidan Meagher, Cam Censullo, Charlie Drohan, and goalie PJ Bartzen. The sophomores especially have been playing water polo together for years, and put in the work this offseason to ensure this kind of improvement would be possible.
McWhirter Comes Home to Coach
A lot of the credit goes to head coach Mike McWhirter, son of the legendary Naperville North swimming and girls water polo coach, Andy McWhirter. Mike was a four year varsity starter at Waubonsie Valley himself, earning 2nd team All State status as a senior in 2013. His passion for his alma mater and work with the West Suburban Water Polo Club teams is a major reason for the turnaround the Warriors have seen since McWhirter took over in 2017.
Despite all of the success Waubonsie Valley boys water polo has had in the water this season, the unfortunate reality is that the team’s only two losses this year have been to Naperville North and Naperville Central. The programs that remain the gatekeepers to that rarified air of state qualification. Despite the defeats, the Warriors are eager for another chance to prove themselves when sectional play begins in May.
Even if that sectional championship does not come to fruition this season, the Waubonsie boys water polo program has proven that it is now a team ready to compete with the state’s elite.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.