Winnetka, Sports

After powerful start to season, New Trier develops depth in hopes of a state-title run

At one point, all coaches had a coach. But not all coaches get to face off against that person.

As far back as fifth grade, New Trier junior varsity water polo coach John Przekota was coached by Glenbrook North coach Marty Gibson.

“He was my mentor,” said Przekota, who led the Trevians as the varsity head coach Tuesday, April 5, in a 15-9 road win in Northbrook.

The pair of coaches have coached with and against one another for years. Przekota was on staff at St. Patrick with Gibson for a decade before Przekota served as the Niles West varsity head coach for 10 years.

After serving as head coach at GBN the last three seasons, Przekota is in his first season at NT as the JV coach and on Tuesday led the Trevians, who did not field some of their typical varsity starters.

“Our top six or seven players stayed home and our goalie,” Przekota said. “This was our JV team with four of our varsity players.”

New Trier freshman Owen Pelzek (19) defends Glenbrook North’s Josh Hyun on Tuesday, April 5.

Trevians junior Alex Bailey scored a game-high three goals, as the visitors cycled through a large lineup of players, allowing the Trevians to get many of their players who typically play JV some varsity action. 

“He’s the first guy off our bench,” Przekota said. “He’s our No. 2 center or 2-meter set. He gets a lot of playing time. We’re expecting big things out of him. He got off to a really fast start. We’re really happy with the progression he’s shown and we just want to keep being him build up.”

Bailey’s first score came a minute into the match, with an emphatic, forceful shot.

New Trier raced to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. 

“This was a pretty good opportunity for me just to, not be aggressive as possible, but just try and work on all the things my coaches have been telling me to do,” Bailey said.

Freshmen Owen Pelzek and Hank Woodman added two goals each. Scoring a goal apiece for the Trevians were: Oliwier Ropa, Drennan Devaraj, Brendan Fojil, Quinn Larkin, Holden Hiebeler, Ryan Sterrett and Colin O’Donnell.

The Trevians varsity squad has come out on fire this season. New Trier has bested state powerhouses —such as Stevenson (twice: 10-2 and 6-4), Lyons (12-6), Neuqua Valley (18-4) and Naperville Central (10-4) — en route to a 15-1 start, which includes championships at the Palatine and Fenwick tournaments.

The Trevians’ lone loss came against Lyons, a 10-9 decision, in the York Tournament on March 25. The Trevs took third.

New Trier will jump headlong into Central Suburban League play. Glenbrook North is now 3-7-1. 

“They’re probably the best team in the state right now,” Gibson said, adding: “A team like New Trier, I was trying to explain to our guys, there’s so many good players on that team right now that when they practice and they scrimmage, they’re actually playing against other good players. With us, we have a lot of good players and we have a lot of new players.”

Both Gibson and Przekota agreed that Stevenson, Lyons and York were among the state’s best teams, and tossed out other names who could potentially be in the mix. But as far as the Trevians were concerned, improving the depth on the team is a more immediate concern.

“It’s nice to get them experienced, even though they’re inexperienced, to see what varsity water polo is all about — get some guys some runs,” Przekota said. “We do have some freshmen who were out today that we’re going to get some things out of at the end of the year for the varsity team and load up for a state run.”

New Trier last earned a state trophy in 2017, when it finished second. Last season, the Trevs qualified for state but lost in the first round.

Bailey is emphatic that just being discussed as potentially the state’s best team is not enough. 

“In the past, we’ve always been one of the lower teams or mid, scratching for the top,” Bailey said. “But this year, it’s exciting being one of those top teams. In past years we’ve been heartbroken at the state tournament, and we don’t want that to happen again.”

He shared a story about a recent practice where head coach David Rafferty-Flatter came in with a message. 

“We had one practice where we came in and he showed us all these great teams that went undefeated in their seasons and then lost in their championships,” Bailey said. “He’s like, ‘That’s not going to be us.’”

Kaleb Carter

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