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Reporter-Area Water Polo: North Penn girls aiming for state four-peat

North Penn’s Cluadia Thamm pass the ball during the Knights' game against Pennridge on Oct. 13, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The North Penn girls have dominated water polo in the state and the it does not look like it will be ceding country this season.

The Knights have won the last three state championships — making it seven titles in the past nine years — and with a deep and talented team in 2017, North Penn is set on making it a four-peat in the pool.

Back in goal is first-team all-state selection senior Rosalinda Rivera while the Knights also return their top two goalscorers — senior second team all-state picks Maeve Wyden (56 goals) and Maddy Koerper (43 goals). Junior Claudia Thamm, who made third-team all-state, added 24 goals in 2016 while senior center defender Caroline Gillespie made the all-state second team.

The Souderton girls are looking to make states with a better seed as the Indians return first-team all-state pick Michaela Hershey while Upper Dublin tries to make a push into the state field.

The North Penn boys team are looking to return to the top of the state after being denied by Cumberland Valley in the final for the second straight season. A first state crown since 2014 is the aim for this balanced Knights squad that returns is two leading goal scorers — senior all-team picks Derek Friday (first team, 48 goals) and Andrew Dunigan (third team, 43 goals).

Senior Goalie Zach Owens (second team), sophomore Sean Faikish (third team) and junior AJ Patterson (honorable mention) is also back for NP boys after earning all-state honors.

Pennridge is set on building off a 17-win season in 2016 as the Rams boys return their top two scorers from last year in seniors Josh Yardley (86 goals) and Aiden Bunn (43) goals). Souderton is young but still has its sights on reaching states, as does Upper Dublin, which is looking to make the Eastern Conference championship for the first time in four seasons.

Coach: Mike Koziol (fifth season).
Last Season: 17-10, seven place at Eastern Prep Championships.
Key Losses: Jimmy Parker, Ace MacDonald.
Top Returners: Finn Lillis (Sr., 2MO), Henry Grady (Sr., Goalkeeper), Brian Bartle (Jr., 2MO), Jack Forde (Jr., 2MD), Walker Butler (So., Utility).
Others to Watch:: Jack LaFond (Jr., Driver), Gabe Levy (Jr., Driver), Daniel Araten (Jr., Driver), Jake Rabbiner (Jr., Driver).
Outlook: “The team returns an experienced core group who have been playing together for several years. The team hopes to compete for an Inter-Ac Title,” Koziol said.

Coach: Jason Grubb (eighth season).
Last Season: 26-5, second place state tournament.
Key Losses: Nico Kountroubis (first team all-state), Nick Bakradze, Shane Markus.
Top Returners/Players to Watch: Derek Friday (Sr., Center, first team all-state), Zach Owens (Sr., Goalie, second team all-state), Andrew Dunigan (Sr., Utility, third team all-state, Sean Faikish (So., Attacker, third team all-state). AJ Patterson (Jr., Center, honorable mention all-state), Aidan Daly (Sr., Attacker), Matt Franco (Sr., Attacker), Ryan Hartman (Sr., Attacker), Chris Killion (So., Center), Ben Alhmark (Sr., Attacker), Bryan Mitchell (Sr., Attacker), Ross Gold (Sr., Attacker).
Season outlook/expectation: “A large group of returning starters and some new hopefuls lead the team in to the new season. The Knights have a well-balanced team that have aspirations make another run at a state championship,” Grubb said.

Coach: Dave Apple (second season).
Last Season: 17-11:
Key Losses: Jakob Aigeldinger (first team all-state), Jeff Swartz (second team all-state), Hayden Sandt.
Top Returners: Josh Yardley (Sr.), Aiden Bunn (Sr.), Ethan Lionetti (Jr.).
Others to Watch:: James Sandt (Jr.), Kevin Jones (Sr.), Alijah Schwager Santangelo (Sr., Goalkeeper).
Outlook: The Rams return their two leading scorers from last year with Yardley — a third-team all state-pick — scoring 86 goals and Bunn having added another 43 goals.
“After only two weeks of preseason it is safe to say we are starting on an even stronger foot than last season,” Apple said. “The boys are as motivated as ever to set the tone early and prove that we have what it takes to compete with the best teams in the state this year.
“After tying (the) Pennridge best final standing last year we hope to move up a few pegs on the state rankings.”

Coach: Joe Hay (fifth season).
Last Season: 13-10.
Key Losses: Cristian Musterait (second team all-state), Zack Clark.
Top Returners: Michael Dechert (Sr.), Rory Sinkinson (Sr.), Ried Sinkinson (Jr.), Brandon Long (Sr.), Jake Kramer (Jr.).
Others to Watch:: Will Leyland (So., Hole set, Andre Beldham (Sr.), Landon Loux (So.), Kristian Stanczewski (Fr.).
Outlook: “The boys look to improve on last seasons effort and expect to return to the state tournament as one of the state’s top eight teams,” Hay said. “We are still a young team without a lot of size, but we expect to compete on a level that will allow us to return to the state tournament this year after narrowly missing out on that opportunity last year.”

Coach: Chris Ianni (fifth season).
Last Season: 9-15, seventh Eastern Conference.
Key Losses: Gavin Price (all-state honorable mention), Doug Stein (third team all-league).
Top Returners: Matt Carpenter (Sr., Offensive Hole Set), Kyle Rubenstein (Sr., Driver).
Outlook: “We are expecting (Carpenter and Rubenstein) to take the reins, using their experience to develop and transform this young team into a contender in the Eastern Conference,” Ianni said.

Coach: Allison Rader (10th season).
Last Season: 8-9.
Key Losses: Lillian Bolen, Cait Andress.
Top Returners: Alexa Naessens (Sr., Goalkeeper, Driver)
Others to Watch:: Emily Morrissey (Jr., Goalkeeper, Driver), Riley Gobora (Jr., 2M), Julia McKernan (Jr., Driver, 2M Defense), Elle Stauffer (So., Goalkeeper, Driver).
Outlook: “We are a small group of girls but they are all athletic and eager to learn,” Rader said. “We’ve already improved tremendously since our first tournament and our goal will be small gains over the course of the season.”

Coach: Jason Grubb (second season).
Last Season: 28-2, state champion.
Key Losses: Kailyn Evans (fifth team All-American), Erin Huebner, Montgomerie Weitzel
Top Returners/Players to Watch: Rosalinda Rivera (Sr., Goalkeeper, first team all-state), Maddy Koerper (Sr., Center, second team all-state), Maeve Wydan (Sr., Utility, second team all-state), Caroline Gillespie (Sr., Center Defender, second team all-state), Claudia Thamm (Jr., Utility, third team all-state), Megan Zartman (Sr., Attacker) Haley Muth (Jr., Center Defender), Madeleine Voss (Jr., Center), Kaitlyn Harkrader (Jr., Attacker), Melissa Mcguire (Sr., Attacker), Kaelen Daly (Fr., Attacker), Lizzy Koerper (Fr., Center), Caroline Dunigan (So., Goalkeeper).
Outlook: “The Knights are three-time defending State champs and return the bulk of their 2016 title team and look to have their underclassmen to have a strong influence for this year. The Knights are a very deep, hungry, and determined to continue the success of the North Penn women’s program.”

Coach: Joe Hay (fifth season).
Last Season: 24-7.
Key Losses: Rachel Morris (honorable mention all-state), Crystal Armstrong (second team all-state), Emily Hodges (third team all-state), Erica Wimmer, Gretchen Ritchie.
Top Returners: Michaela Hershey (first team all-state), Jenny Rogers, Hailey Freed, Clara Burrell.
Others to Watch:: Kaylin Moll, Josie Ferlick, Gabrielle Fortier.
Outlook: “The girls expect to return to the state tournament with a higher seed than last year,” Hay said. “We have a lot of new girls who are ready to step up to the challenge.”

Coach: Chris Ianni (third season).
Last Season: 8-13.
Key Losses: Jenna Johns (all-state honorable mention).
Top Returners: Rebecca Pendleton, Grace Murphy (Sr., Offensive Hole Set), Emma Rearson (Sr., Defensive Hole Set). Kelly Regan (Jr., all-state honorable mention), Sydney Menszak (So.).
Others to Watch:: Jasmine Thek (Fr., Goalkeeper).
Outlook: The Cardinals are aiming to go further this season and qualify for states. Regan earned all-state honorable mention and Ianni says she is versatile player that can be effective at any position.

Coach: Greg Beyer (second season).
Top Returners: Caitlin Valentine (Jr., Goalkeeper), Taylor Radell (Sr., Driver), Emma Benning (Jr., Center), Anna Alberti (So., Center Defender).
Others to Watch: Becca Valentine (Fr., Center Defender), Chloe Lovensheimer (So., Center Defender), Jackie Bauer (So., Center).
Outlook: “This is a fairly young team who have put in a lot of work together this past off-season,” Beyer said. “They’re playing very well together and are have strong leadership in their team captains Taylor Radell, Bella Farinas and Emma Benning.
“This group will rely on its deep bench to stay rested through the game and healthy throughout the season. Should be a great year for us with a lot of young talent coming up.”



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