Girls Water Polo: Niki Beringer takes the lead for Lincoln-Way North
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media April 13, 2014 10:08PM
Niki Beringer for Lincoln-Way North Water Polo for Spring Photo Day at Andrew High School, Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 in Tinley Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 15, 2014 6:16AM
Niki Beringer knew this season would be her time to take the spotlight. As a senior, she’d get her chance to be the go-to scorer for Lincoln-Way North.
She just didn’t expect it to come so quickly.
“I knew and everyone knew that when I was a senior, it was going to be like, ‘Niki is our go-to player,’ ” Beringer said. “It’s weird that it’s happening now, because I don’t feel like I’m old enough. It doesn’t seem like I should be a senior. It all went so fast.”
Beringer, a four-year varsity performer, is one of just three players back from last year’s Phoenix squad that reached the sectional final before dropping a 9-7 heartbreaker to rival and eventual state runner-up Lincoln-Way Central.
Beringer’s experience and ability are invaluable on a young squad looking to rebuild.
“She’s a solid player who can play multiple positions and fill in where needed,” North coach Kendra Will said. “The team will need to rely on Niki’s direction and leadership.”
Beringer is cognizant of her strengths and weaknesses, and thinks playing the hole set is the best position for her. She can focus on offense, letting her teammates be the defensive stoppers.
“Our team has a lot of good defensive players,” she said. “We have a lot of girls with long arms and I’m not one of them. They’re good at blocking shots and stuff. I’m kind of waiting like, ‘Someone else get the ball, get it to me and I’ll score.’ ”
Beringer enjoys the go-to scorer’s role, but also finds it to be a bit nerve-racking.
“It’s scary,” she said. “All the other teams are like, ‘That’s the girl’ and they’re like coming after me. It makes it hard for our team to adjust. We haven’t set a hole very often in the past so a lot of people don’t know how to do it. It’s going to take some time to get used to, but I think we’re getting the hang of it.”
As the veteran on an inexperienced squad, Beringer tries to mentor her teammates.
“I try to give pointers without being bossy, which is kind of hard,” she said. “It gets frustrating sometimes with new players, but every time someone does something good, I make sure to tell them how good they’re doing and keep everyone encouraged, keep everyone’s spirits up.”
Beringer has played water polo for six years and said she loves the team aspect to it. She also enjoys showing off the sport to her friends who are unaware of how the game is played.
“Everyone’s like, ‘What is that?’ ” she said. “You try to tell them it’s a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey in the water, and until they actually come see it, they have no idea. Then they see it and they’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s hard.’
“Water polo is something I love so much and I think I’m good at it. I hope so.”