Baranek: Megan Hofer, Hannah Schultz power Lincoln-Way Area Water Polo Club to title in Cincinnati
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org July 24, 2013 10:10PM
Hannah Schultz (right) | File photo
Updated: August 26, 2013 4:20PM
They lived on opposite sides of town.
They went to different grammar schools.
Their first year together as teammates their club team didn’t win a single match.
There weren’t a whole lot of signs pointing toward Tinley Park residents Megan Hofer and Hannah Schultz becoming great friends when they met seven years ago.
But they did. And as they’ve grown as friends, so they have as water polo competitors.
A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in their careers, they got to be champions when their Lincoln-Way Area Water Polo Club team won the Cincinnati Shootout on July 13 and 14.
It was neat and funny at the same time, according to Schultz.
“We were like, ‘It took seven years for us to get good in water polo?’ ” she said, laughing. “But this team, we all get along so well. We play together as a team, and no one is petty. This is the best team I’ve ever been on.”
The program was started a decade ago by Maureen VanSwol, who continues to coach along with Jeff Hofer.
The members of the 18-and-under squad include Hofer and Anna Tamulonis, of Andrew; Keriann Clarin, Sam Klosak and Cassidy DeGraff, of Lincoln-Way North; Jill Connelly, Erica Mangia and Haley McCabe, of Lincoln-Way East; Liz Klock, of Lincoln-Way Central; Genna Heisel, of Marian Catholic; Teige Ballweber, of Lockport; and Schultz, a student at Tinley Park who during the high school season plays for Bremen co-op.
Their title run at the Cincinnati Shootout was impressive. Lincoln-Way outscored four opponents by a combined 60-20, including defending Ohio state champion Upper Arlington 13-7 in the title match.
Lincoln-Way also beat two other teams that will play in the upcoming Junior Olympics.
LAW, which was unbeaten in the AWP Chicagoland League, lost for the first time this season when it finished fourth at the American Water Polo National Challenge in Philadelphia over the weekend.
Hofer and Schultz will be seniors at their respective high schools in the fall.
Hofer, whose older sister Brooke was a star pitcher for Andrew’s softball team and is a student/athlete at Washington University in St. Louis, is following in the water polo waves of her father.
Jeff Hofer was three-year varsity member as a driver for Brother Rice teams that won three consecutive state titles from 1980 through ’82. He went on to compete at Loyola, and made the NCAA nationals all four years.
“I’m glad that she found something that she could excel at,” Jeff Hofer said of Megan. “That was my main goal for (both of) them. So far they have, which makes a parent pretty proud.”
Hofer has been a varsity swimmer and sectional qualifier in various events all three years at Andrew. In water polo, she earned all-conference honors as a sophomore and junior, was first-team all-sectional as a sophomore and second team as a junior. For the 2013 season she had 93 goals and 53 assists, and was a member of the 14-girl SouthtownStar All-Area squad.
Schultz, a center and hole set for Bremen co-op team, scored 91 goals and had 77 steals en route to an All-Area and first team all-sectional berth. As a swimmer for Tinley Park she has qualified for state in the 100 butterfly for the past three years, and in the 50 butterfly as a sophomore and junior.
In addition to LAW, Schultz makes an hour or so drive to play for West Suburban Water Polo Club, which includes players from Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley, Matea Valley and Naperville North and Naperville Central. She will be competing with West Suburban, which qualified for the Junior Olympics, scheduled for Tuesday through Aug. 4 in Southern California.
“When I was little my dad would take me to the softball fields and throw groundballs and I would run away from them,” Schultz said. “When (one time) he called me Twinkle Toes I was like, ‘I’m done. I’m OK with the water.’
“Honestly, though, seven years ago I could never see myself going this far in water polo. It was just one of those things where you just get better and discover, ‘Wow, I really like this.’ ”
Hofer said she became a much better water polo player because of encouragement and guidance from Schultz, whom Hofer claims had more natural ability when they met.
“We’ve helped each other in different ways,” Schultz said. “I helped her in water polo, and she’s helped me become a better person, become more social.”
When they meet in the water, however …
“It’s a complete brawl,” Hofer said, laughing. “Me and her are pretty much on each other the whole game. Her team (in 2013) beat us the first time in overtime, and the second time they beat us again.
“During games we do not talk to each other like we’re friends. She’ll beat me up a lot, and I’ll try to do it back but I don’t know if really works all the time. Then after the game we’re best friends again.
“No matter what happens, it’s just fun.”