Devils relish competing like it's 2019

Sense of normalcy returns for Central boys gymnastics, boys and girls water polo teams

It feels like old times with Hinsdale Central athletes readying for full schedules free of masks. Gymnasts are eager to show their talents, while water polo players are taking advantage of opportunities for growth in the new Don Watson Aquatic Center.

In this second installment of a four-part series previewing the Red Devils spring sports scene, coaches of the boys gymnastics and boys and girls water polo teams offer their expectations and visions for the 2022 seasons of their respective programs.

Boys gymnastics

First meet: March 5 @ Wanner Invite (V placed 2nd)

Last season: 1-3, 2nd at IHSA sectional

Head coach: CJ Johnson

Seasons at Central: 4

No. of varsity members: 12

Team strengths: We've got some good kids who are working. If one team member is off, we have another to replace that score. We have an almost all-senior team that gives us our scores. We're coming close to learning a lot of new skills that are going to help our overall score.

Areas for growth: We had two sprained ankles and a hyper-extended knee in one week, so we've had some injury problems. COVID kicked our butts because we haven't been able to recruit kids for the program. We're going to recover, but it's taking a little bit of time. The freshman, we're pushing them to compete at the JV level. I'm challenging the boys daily to not get complacent in what they're doing, I always want them to do a little bit better.

Who to watch: 2021 state qualifiers seniors Matthew Cihlar and Chris Reyes. Chris has done a lot better than he did last year, so I'm hoping for better things from him. Senior Connor Schwarz scored his highest score on high bar at the Wanner Invite. Sophomore Marc Cihlar is another key all-arounder.

Season outlook: I'm really pleased with this group of kids that I have. We're going to be in the state final, provided we get healthy and do our job. We're right on pace, and we've got the ability.

Boys water polo

First meet: March 7 @ Glenbrook North (V wins 15-5)

Last season: 11-6, lost in IHSA sectional quarterfinal

Head coach: Chris Ortiz

Seasons at Central: 9

No. of varsity members: 14

Team strengths: They have chemistry. We're heavy in senior leadership, so it helps having that experience playing at the varsity level. Being as young as we were last year has really allowed us to hit the ground running this year. Our counterattack is one of our strengths because we have so much speed up top.

Areas for growth: Being able to continue to grow as a team and for the new girls to be able to step in and contribute - which they already have starting doing. We need to develop the new girls and get them what will hopefully be a full season under their belt.

Who to watch: Senior goalie and co-captain Olivia Zelenka is very good tactically, and she's our leader on defense. Senior Roslyn Thomas is another leader on defense and she was one of our leaders in steals last year. On offense, senior Madison Rose has gained strength since last season. Junior Tessa Barber's speed and strong shot are huge assets. Sophomore Christy Boggs already has a number of goals for

us this season.

Season outlook: We're picking up where we left off last season, and the sky's the limit. It's nice being able to have tournaments in play again and get back into a (pre-COVID) rhythm. I want us to grow together and develop relationships and become a team that will leave them with memories that will last a lifetime.

Boys water polo

First meet: March 12 @ Boilermaker Invite (V places 6th)

Last season: 5-8, lost in IHSA sectional quarterfinal

Head coach: Christy Brodell

Seasons at Central: 8

No. of varsity members: 12

Team strengths: They like each other, they support each other. Good morale. Great leadership from my juniors and seniors. There are some really good players and chemistry on this team, and I think there's a lot

we can do.

Areas for growth: For our juniors, they're playing their first tournaments ever. The majority of our team has played just 20 games (due to COVID restrictions the last two seasons). I just want to see growth from all of them in all areas and just more confidence in the water and better decision-making,

Who to watch: seniors Michael D'Aprile and Chris Rakos, juniors Aidan ElDifrawi and Millan Whittier, and sophomore Yaseen Halabi.

Season outlook: We just want to be proud of our record. There are 120 quarters, and we want to win all of them. What I like about coaching them is, win or lose, the boys are always having fun. My coaching strategy has always been let's make better human beings and move forward a little bit. Not everyone can win a state championship, but we can all get better. I'm excited we have some normalcy again.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean