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Water polo player of the year: SLUH's Jellinek caps off career in style with fourth title

Water polo player of the year: SLUH's Jellinek caps off career in style with fourth title

From the 2018 Water Polo All-Metro series
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SLUH vs. Sycamore (Ohio) water polo

St. Louis U. High's Joe Jellinek shoots during a game in the De Smet Invitational against Sycamore on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Paul Kopsky,

Even now, just less than five weeks later, Joe Jellinek still can’t quite believe it sometimes.

Jellinek became a four-time Missouri Water Polo district champion May 12, when he helped lead the St. Louis University High Junior Billikens to a 13-4 win over Parkway West. He joined 2009 SLUH grad John Heafner as the only player in MWP history with four titles.

“In the heat of the moment, you don’t really realize it,” said Jellinek, a recent SLUH graduate. “But it’s been a couple weeks now to where you can think that actually happened. And it doesn’t happen every day.”

Jellinek was a big reason why the Jr. Bills rolled to a 26-1 record and added on to the program’s already impressive record of championships with No. 20.

Jellinek wasn’t the top offensive player in Missouri Water Polo (that honor went to fellow senior teammate Nick Mattingly). He also wasn’t the league’s top defensive standout (that would be another SLUH senior in John Burke).

But Jellinek did win the MWP Doug Hall Player of the Year award. And he is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro water polo player of the year.

That is a sign of the league’s most complete player.

“His water polo IQ is so high that he was an impact player for us anywhere in the pool,” SLUH coach Paul Baudendistel said. “We needed goals this year, so he was a big offensive player. The last couple years, he played more of a defensive role for us and he did a terrific job. I think he’s an underrated defensive player.”

Heck, Jellinek even got to play goalie for 12 minutes over two games this season. And he’s quite thrilled with his season stats between the pipes, thank you very much.

“I’m very proud of the five saves that I had and the zero goals against,” he said. “That wasn’t quite enough (minutes played) for the top of leaderboard, but it was a bunch of fun. It was really cool.”

SLUH is such a water polo powerhouse that varsity contributions from freshmen are rare. But during his freshman year on the JV squad, Jellinek got the call to the big club.

“He’d been playing for a couple years with guys his age, but you just got the sense that he wasn’t getting a whole lot out of playing JV, whether it was at games or practices,” Baudendistel said.

5/12/18--Water Polo -Championship - Parkway West vs SLUH

Joe Jellinek (5) of SLUH scores against Alec Zhou (1) of Parkway West in the Missouri Water Polo championship game on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at St. Peters Rec-Plex in St. Peters, MO. Rick Ulreich. Special to

Jellinek’s offensive production ramped up each year as a Junior Billiken.

His freshman season, he popped in 20 goals, and he followed that up with a 36-goal campaign as a sophomore. He more than doubled that total as a junior with a team-high 79 goals as part of a 193-point season. And he capped it off with 75 goals and a career-high 204 points this season.

“I went from playing with guys my age to playing with some of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Jellinek said. “I got to play with guys like (2015 All-Metro Player of the Year) Colin Derdeyn, Eric Caselton and Michael Krause my freshman year. That was huge for my development. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates over the years.”

All told, Jellinek had 210 goals and 558 points in 107 games, as SLUH went an astounding 99-8 — a .925 winning percentage — during his career, which included nary a loss to a team from Missouri.

“That’s crazy to think that,” Baudendistel said. “It’s a high bar for the next couple classes.”

Jellinek’s postseason production also went up each year in a SLUH cap, from 14 and 15 points, respectively, his first two seasons, to 25 as a junior and, finally, 11 goals and 12 assists for 34 points this season.

And the 17-year-old South County resident saved the best for last with a career postseason-high five goals in the championship game win over Parkway West.

“His maturity in the water was the biggest change from last year to this year,” Baudendistel said.

The next step in the maturation process is college, as Jellinek will be off to Fordham University this fall. It’s a process that unfortunately may not include water polo.

“My plans for playing in college are a little shaky,” Jellinek said. “I’ve been in contact with the coaches and they told me they’d love for me to come try out. So, I plan on trying out. We’ll see how that goes.”

All-Metro First Team

All-Metro Second Team

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