Girls water polo season preview: Astor a ‘bit too obsessed’ with sport
In this April 25, 2012, photo, New Trier's Alexana Astor watches while playing against Latin in a water polo match in Winnetka. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Look out for ...
Meredith O’Brien (Sr.)
O’Brien set a program record with 9.55 saves per game in 2012. Her 296 saves last season rank second in Loyola history. Also a key player on the Ramblers tennis team, where she played doubles with Kristin Marren, O’Brien’s athleticism will help determine whether Loyola can knock off New Trier in a potential rematch of last year’s sectional final.
Marta Considine (Jr.)
The Ramblers will lean heavily on Considine this season. Considine was golden in 2012, scoring four goals in Loyola’s sectional final loss to New Trier. Considine became the sixth player in program history to reach triple digits with her 100 goals last season.
Maria Protic (Jr.)
Protic has been on the Central Suburban League’s radar for a long time: She scored seven times against Payton in 2011. Since then, Protic has excelled both in the swimming pool and on the hardwood. Protic not only puts the ball in the goal, but also leads the team, for which she served as a captain as a sophomore last season. The 6-foot tall Protic possesses rare height, allowing her to see over most girls.
Tyler Gooding (Sr.)
Gooding went on some run in last year’s CSL Tournament. She couldn’t quite push the Hawks over the top, but she did manage 15 scores. Gooding scored five goals in the quarterfinals against Glenbrook South before tallying an astonishing eight scores in a high-octane 16-13 shootout win over Maine East. Gooding brings excellent speed to the pool: Her 400-yard freestyle relay team qualified for the state tournament.
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:43AM
Alexana Astor has always strived to stay in the pool.
A swimmer since she was 4 years old, Astor would let nothing — not even a broken arm — keep her out of the pool. According to her father, Michael, 7-year-old Alexana wouldn’t even let a bicycle accident get in her way, wading into the water with her waterproof cast.
“All of the parents were looking at us like we were some sort of monsters, but she was swimming and she refused to go in the slow lane. She insisted on swimming in the fast lane with everybody else and she did well,” Michael Astor said. “It shows that she’s a very hard worker. A broken arm didn’t stop her.”
In fact, he even suggested that the New Trier senior water polo star’s success might be due in part to the strong legs she developed ploughing through the water with one broken arm.
At some point, though, Alexana Astor no longer wanted to be a member of the swim team. Of course, she still wanted to remain in the water, just as a member of the water polo team.
“When she came in her freshman year, she was introduced to water polo and she has not stopped playing since,” New Trier coach Matt Wendt said. “She’s a very good swimmer. She’s chosen not to swim because she just loves water polo.”
Her decision to quit the swim team was met with some resistance. According to Alexana Astor, her water polo coach was concerned that she would lose her speed. Her father was concerned that all of his hard work supporting his daughter, both financially and emotionally, was for naught.
“When I first quit the swim team, he was outraged and really upset, because he thought that I was giving up something that he himself had invested so much time in, because he went to every single swim meet with me. All day long, he would stay there and pay for everything. So for him, it was a big disappointment initially,” Alexana Astor said. “He used to see it as giving something up and like 10 years of training that I had put into it is just gone, but now he can see that all of the swimming practices are what give me my edge in water polo.”
According to Alexana Astor, her swim experience has provided a mental advantage.
“When you’ve swam, the only person who can really push you is yourself. It’s the only way you’ll get better. That’s kind of how I got where I am with water polo because of my personal drive to do better,” Alexana Astor said. “Having swam for 10 years, that’s kind of hard to get out of your mind.”
Alexana Astor scored 88 goals last season. As a result, she has drawn attention from multiple schools at the next level, including Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
“She is blazing fast,” Wendt said. “She’s going to be off the charts good for us. I can’t believe how much she’s improved during the offseason, and she’s just fast, she’s got really good ball skills and speed with her pop shots and her shots off the water. Her shots off the water are just amazing. She can just pick the ball up and the ball’s a rocket toward the goal. It’s amazing.”
In some ways, Alexana Astor’s success is hardly surprising. As her father said, water polo is hardly the first activity she has mastered.
“She’s a natural athlete,” Michael Astor said. “When she was doing dancing, she used to do ballroom dancing also, coaches were saying that she would have a great future in ballroom dancing. When she played volleyball, coaches wanted her to go out for volleyball. The New Trier track team wanted her to go out for track. I know that she can do good at any sport.”
She has also fared well in the classroom, where her father said that she has a 4.5 GPA, and she works multiple jobs. Given all that she does inside and outside of New Trier, the one thing Alexana Astor is lacking in is free time.
“Her free time falls into a negative zone,” Michael Astor said. “No free time at all pretty much. There are certainly sacrifices that must be made, and her social life is certainly part of the sacrifice.”
Then again, as long as she gets her time in the pool, that might just be enough to keep her content.
Even now, as a member of the New Trier water polo team, Alexana Astor refuses to get out of the pool. After practice is over, she’ll continue to fire shots at goalkeeper Hannah Caywood until Wendt forces them to get out of the pool so the Trevians swim team can use the space.
It’s a far cry from her days on the swim team, when she admits to wishing that the clock would tick a little faster during practice.
“It was a whole new world,” Alexana Astor said. “I can’t even explain how much I love water polo. I’m a little bit too obsessed with it. I talk about it all the time. It annoys my friends sometimes.”