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Boys Water Polo: Loss to Lockport still stings Homewood-Flossmoor

Homewood-Flossmoor boys water polo team members Mike Mitchell Jakobi McClellan Tuesday February 26 2013.  | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Homewood-Flossmoor boys water polo team members Mike Mitchell and Jakobi McClellan Tuesday, February 26, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Boys Water Polo 2013

SOUTHLAND TEAMS TO WATCH

Sandburg: The Eagles, who finished third in the state last season, must replace 2012 SouthtownStar Player of the Year Matt Veldman and goalie Mike Malecki, but have the talent to reload quickly. Kevin Tunney had 83 goals and 89 assists last season. Mike O’Malley also is a strong scoring threat.

Lockport: The Porters earned a state trophy in their first state appearance last season, taking fourth. Star scorer David Hir has graduated, but Lockport returns Dan Oldendorf (89 goals last season) and is a senior-laden squad. Jake Knowles and Jake Elias will be counted on offensively. John Goetz has some experience in goal.

Brother Rice: Chris Mulcrone takes over for his brother, Bill, as head coach and inherits a solid core of returnees. Dave Jackson and Kevin Mayer lead a squad that will look to return to state after falling to Stagg in a sectional semifinal last season.

Bremen co-op: The Silver Snakes pulled off the area’s biggest postseason upset last year, stunning Andrew in a sectional quarterfinal. Bremen should be a more consistent threat this season with top scorer Quinn Johnson and goalie Tony Zdnavivicius returning.

Stagg: The Chargers have to replace six starters from a team that reached the sectional finals before losing to Sandburg last season. Senior Ryan Petersen (58 goals in 2012) will lead the way as Stagg should battle with Lincoln-Way North and Andrew for the SouthWest Suburban Red crown.

TOP INDIVIDUALS
(in alphabetical order)

Quinn Johnson, Sr. Utility, Bremen co-op: Johnson scored 113 goals and had 121 steals in a huge 2012 campaign.

Kevin Kuchta, Sr. Utility, H-F: One of the area’s top two-way players will look to lead the Vikings back to state.

Kevin Mayer, Sr. Driver, Brother Rice: Mayer will try to pick up the scoring slack with the loss of Mike Mulcrone to graduation.

Jakobi McClellan, Jr. Goalie, H-F: After a mostly smooth transition from the field to the goal last season, McClellan could be the area’s top netminder this year.

Dan Oldendorf, Sr. Driver, Lockport: The speedy Oldendorf figures to be the Porters’ go-to scorer this year.

Ryan Petersen, Sr. Driver, Stagg: A three-year varsity starter, Petersen will be counted on to lead Stagg’s offense.

Kevin Tunney, Sr. Driver, Sandburg: Eagles coach Jim Caliendo called Tunney “the most heady player” on last year’s state third-place squad.

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Updated: April 6, 2013 6:05AM



Kevin Kuchta knows how good it feels to make it to state.

The four-year varsity performer for Homewood-Flossmoor was a key performer in the Vikings’ run to the state quarterfinals his freshman year in 2010.

The last two seasons, however, have ended bitterly as H-F fell one win short of getting back to the state quarterfinals in Lincolnshire. Last year, it was a heartbreaking 10-9 sectional final loss to Lockport that finished the Vikings’ season.

The memories of that defeat are all the motivation H-F needs as the 2013 season approaches. For Kuchta and the rest of the seniors, it’s their last shot at reclaiming state glory.

“I’m very motivated this season,” Kuchta said. “This is my last season and my last chance to get to state again and I want to take advantage of it.

“The loss (to Lockport) stung. It’s going to fuel us this whole season. Our first home game is (March 28) against Lockport. We can’t wait.”

Veteran H-F coach Tim Caldwell said the 2012 season-ending loss was among the biggest heartbreakers of his career.

“I’ve been in high school sports a long time in swimming, water polo, football, track, baseball,” he said. “Nothing left more of a bellyache than that game. That was torturous on us. I hope the kids are hungry enough to come back and try to avenge that.”

Though Caldwell would like to see more depth developed, the pieces are there for the Vikings — who open the season Tuesday at Hinsdale South — to have a strong shot at vengeance.

It starts with Kuchta, who scored 96 goals last season. The All-State selection was also one of the area’s best defensive players, coming up with 122 steals.

“Kevin means a lot to the team,” Caldwell said. “The kid’s a warrior. He knows how to win. He wants to win. He’s a great leader. He never gives up. It’s not just the skills that he brings, but the passion he brings means a lot. The kid makes the team better by himself.”

Junior Jakobi McClellan returns after a strong first season in 2012 as the Vikings’ goalie.

“I feel more comfortable with the position now,” he said. “I want to exceed what I did last year and be able to help my teammates more with running the defense, not just stopping shots.”

Caldwell will be counting on senior driver Mike Mitchell and sophomore hole set Haden Santefort to step up offensively. Mason Reidel also is a returning varsity player while Broc Thompson should contribute after moving up from the JV squad.

“Right now, we have a lot of a disparity in talent from player one to player seven,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to bring that a little closer together. We’re not going to have seven Kevins, but we need to have seven guys playing better as one.”

If the Vikings can develop that depth, they’ll have a shot at accomplishing the one goal they’re focused squarely on.

“We just want to get back to state,” Mitchell said. “That’s our one goal. We just have to avoid making little errors. Two or three little errors could mean two or three goals, and we only lost by one last year.

“If we can make it to state, we’ll all be extremely happy.”



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