John Giuliano was one of many on Palatine's boys water polo team who knew what to expect in the Vernon Hills sectional final Saturday.
Guiliano scored 3 goals, losing his cap on one when it rapped around the senior's neck.
That play spoke to the game's physicality.
"This was an extremely tough game," Giuliano said.
Second-seeded McHenry dominated the game, beating the top seed 17-7 to advance to state for the second year in a row.
"McHenry has a very good program," Giuliano said. "We just wanted to come out here and show how really tough we were. We really wanted to win this game so bad."
McHenry (29-4) will take on Loyola Academy in the Elite Eight at 5:45 p.m. Friday at Stevenson.
Palatine, which finished with the best record in school history at 25-7, has come a long way since winning just 4 games four years ago. The Pirates can't get past McHenry in the sectional final, however, having seen the Warriors end their season three straight years.
"Unfortunately, (McHenry) has been our Achilles' heel for the last three years now," Palatine coach Joe Grzybek said. "We've got to figure them out sooner than later. We just played too sloppy to win a championship game. We made 35 turnovers. You can't win any game doing that."
McHenry got off to a fast start, scoring four times in the opening quarter for a 4-0 advantage and led 6-3 by the break.
"We figured we would be behind early," Grzybek said. "We figured we could battle through it. We just made too many mistakes. (McHenry) never missed an outside shot. Give them credit. They made the shots and we didn't."
McHenry came out with a strong third, scoring 7 goals, and created too much distance for Palatine to make a comeback.
"Coach Grzybek is a comeback king over there," McHenry coach Craig Fowles said. "If there's a team that can figure it out and come back, they can do it. I wasn't comfy until the middle of the third quarter. A 4-goal lead isn't safe against them."
Palatine got its other goals from Dylan Weissmann and Kamil Mulawa, each of whom had 2.
Scott Dabrowski and Kyle Braun led McHenry with 5 goals apiece.