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Mundelein goalie Anna Ward stops a shot on goal during a match against Fenwick at Stevenson Saturday. | Jason Glosniak/for Sun-Times Media
LINCOLNSHIRE — There was a most unusual sight inside Stevenson High School’s nanatorium Friday night.
Sitting in the stands, above the pool, were several boys wearing tuxedos. Why the formality? They were waiting for their prom dates, all Mundelein girls water polo players.
As soon as the Mustangs finished their match against Rockford (Mich.) a little before 6 p.m., the girls got out of the water and began to transform from swimsuit-wearing athletes to dress-wearing, prom-attending teenagers.
“We hopped out of the pool and sprinted into the locker room,” senior Allie Boothe said. “It was a lot to handle, but fun.”
Years from now, recalling the prom preparations should induce a smile from the participants. The Mustangs are hoping the recollection of their athletic endeavors will prompt the same reaction.
One season after a state final four appearance, Mundelein is playing with a more inexperienced roster. Last weekend’s Stevenson tournament provided a perfect midseason benchmark for determining how far the Mustangs have come. Four losses in two days dropped their record to below .500 (10-11).
Coach Drew Schneider said the challenging competition — the Mustangs played top-ranked Fenwick and Okemos, one of the best programs in Michigan — provided a platform for growth and development.
“We had a bigger team last year. This year we don’t have as much size, but we have speed,” Schneider said. “We are looking for a faster-paced offense. Rather than muscling the ball to the goal, we are swimming to the goal.”
That outswim-your-defender style begins with juniors Emily Garcia and Elly Wingender. Wingender, a defender, played exceptionally well in the Stevenson tournament, according to Schneider.
“I want us to be moving the ball and driving through the middle and with multiple plays at the same time to take advantage of our speed,” Schneider said. “I don’t need [Wingender] to emerge as a significant goal scorer, just to play in the system. She’s one of the ones who is learning their role.”
Garcia, a left-handed utility player, is the team’s most reliable goal scorer.
“A beast,” Boothe said.
“She’s one of our best players and our top scorers,” senior goalie Anna Ward said. “She’s rocking it.”
Just as several Mustangs were late Friday night at the Lincolnshire Marriott, where prom was held. After catching a few hours sleep, a 7 a.m. bus took them from Mundelein to Stevenson, where the Mustangs played three matches Saturday.
Standing on the Stevenson pool deck before their final match, a weary Boothe and Ward were fondly recalling Friday’s events, which saw them get ready for prom inside a visiting locker room.
“We took fast showers, blow-dried our hair. We had stations, our moms were set up,” Ward said. “One was in the corner with curlers, another mom was putting makeup on. Other girls were braiding each other’s hair. It was like an assembly line.”