In the spring of 2014, Sophia Brouwer — a Loyola Academy freshman at the time and coming off a swimming season in the fall — wanted to compete in a sport.
Water polo was a viable option for the Lincoln Park resident.
“It looked interesting,” recalls Brouwer, now a senior and a second-year varsity member of the Ramblers’ girls water polo program. “It looked cool. I thought, ‘Hey, water polo, I’ll give it a try.’ ”
Brouwer made the JV squad and, in her very first game, committed a turnover shortly after entering the water. Life as a rookie water polo player was not going so swimmingly.
“I was terrified because I had no idea what I was doing,” she admits.
But she was also instantly productive in the game against Mundelein High School, scoring in front of a crowd that included her father, Ron.
“He hadn’t realized I scored because he couldn’t tell the players apart,” a smiling Brouwer says.
It’s hard — no, impossible — to miss the 5-foot-9 Brouwer in the water these days. Bunches of goals for the 13-15 Ramblers originate from her right hand.
The standout stands … out.
As a scorer.
As a leader.
Co-captain Brouwer and junior Lauren Voss are the team’s leading scorers this spring.
“Sophia’s shots are hard shots, strong shots,” says senior Emma Kyle, the team’s other co-captain and LA’s leader in assists and steals. “I started calling her ‘The Hammer’ last year.”
LA’s 2016 team was a senior-laden group, and it included Voss’ sister, Claire, now a freshman swimmer at San Diego State University. The elder Voss — named a second-team all-stater by ilpolo.com — served as the Ramblers’ force on offense last spring.
“I did a lot of observing when I was a junior,” Brouwer says. “When we were up by 10 goals, that’s when I usually got to play. Claire was great, such a great all-around player. She helped me. Watching her play in games and in practices helped me.”
Instead of figuring she would see plenty of time in the water as a senior and therefore could take it easy in the offseason, Brouwer joined the Chicago-based Lady Eagles, a water polo club team, and trained and competed in the fall and winter seasons.
The Lady Eagles landed in Ohio to play in a tournament.
“Great competitor, very intense, and she’s easy to coach,” Ramblers water polo coach Kim Przekota says of Brouwer, who is interested in civil engineering and would like nothing more than the opportunity to play polo at either Villanova or Brown — the two schools at the top of her list. “She has stepped up so much since her days as a bench player last year. And she does whatever you ask her to do; not a lot of drama with Sophia.
“Each time she plays,” the coach adds, “she improves. Exciting to watch.”
Brouwer and Lauren Voss paced the Ramblers’ scoring in a 9-7 loss to New Trier on March 17, and that pair, along with junior Nicole Kielba, ranked in the top three among LA scorers in three New Trier Tournament games on March 11.
“Sophia,” Voss says, “is good at getting in position [on offense], plus she’s able to manage the ball so well. Her backhand shot is strong; all of her shots are strong.
“I remember, in the preseason of my freshman year, when Sophia was a year ahead of me, I was told to go in for her, and I thought, ‘Wait, she’s good; why am I going in for her?’ ” The thing about her is how excited she always is — excited to compete in practice and in games.”
As a humble Brouwer progressed in the sport she chose late in her young life and waited patiently to swim and shoot for serious minutes in games, she received positive feedback. From coaches.
The consensus: Sophia, you’re better than you think you are.
“Sophia,” Kyle says, “is so aware in the water, with the ability to improvise and backstroke to get in a better position. Reliable. Sophia is reliable.”
And quick to acknowledge the talents of her teammates.
After scoring off a pass from Kyle in a game, Brouwer’s typical reaction is, “Emma, nice pass.”
In January, Brouwer made an impact out of the water, dancing for 12 hours in the school’s main gym during a Dance Marathon. The inaugural event raised thousands of dollars for children with muscular dystrophy. Brouwer is a member of the Loyola Academy Dance Company (LADC) — the organization behind the marathon.
“I danced to some disco songs,” ‘The Hammer’ says.
Perhaps to some hip-hop songs, as well, especially if they were from an M.C. Hammer album.
Notable: Loyola Academy’s girls water polo team defeated visiting Bremen 14-5 on April 1, behind junior Lauren Voss’ four goals and two apiece from seniors Sophia Brouwer and Lexi Stensby. LA led 7-1 after one seven-minute quarter and 11-2 at the half. Ramblers coach Kim Przekota pulled most of her starters after one quarter of play. The winning goalie was sophomore Grace Kern. LA’s other scorers were Sarah Pinkerton, Emma Kyle, Angela Visconti, Nicole Kielba, Katie Nash and Anna Schaupp.