Lockport senior water polo goalkeeper Matt Yeager did something after a boys state quarterfinal Thursday night that he did often in the water.
He guessed effectively.
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"I kind of tried to read their arms," Yeager said after collecting 14 saves in the Porters' 9-6 defeat of host Stevenson. "I guess I guessed right a lot."
The game was, without a doubt, a defensive battle, particularly in the second quarter. Neither team scored in the frame in the day's final quarterfinal. Patriots junior keeper Rob O'Brien (15 saves) also was brilliant throughout the game.
A highly entertaining moment in the first half was a pool-length shot by O'Brien as time was winding down in the first quarter, followed immediately by a pool-length toss by Yeager. You catch mine; I'll catch yours.
Lockport led 3-2 at the half. Senior utility Alex Shkiler scored both of Stevenson's goals in the first 14 minutes and finished with a game-high 4. Senior David Hir and junior Dan Oldendorf each tallied 3 goals for the winners.
Stevenson took plenty of decent shots, but too many were either too strong or a tad off. Yeager was constantly stubborn -- even when he faced point-blank shots and halted a couple of fastballs with parts of his face. He was also adept at sprinting for risky loose balls well in front of the goal.
"His first read on shots is sick," praised Porters coach Joe Lewandowski, whose 22-7 squad faces Loyola Academy (28-6) in a state semifinal at 10:15 a.m. Saturday in Lincolnshire. "It's like he's always naturally there, where he needs to be to stop a shot. This kid -- he's amazing."
Stevenson cut it to 7-5 on a painful goal by senior Chris Hodges at 6:31 of the fourth quarter. He suffered a leg cramp right before beating Yeager and then somehow got himself out of the pool after signaling toward his bench that a sub would be needed for him.
Pat sophomore Mitchell Sokolsky netted a goal nearly three minutes later, making it a 7-6 contest and triggering the loudest eruption from Stevenson's faithful. One fan in the stands jumped and flapped repeatedly a "This is it!" neon-yellow sign.
But Lockport sealed its biggest win in program history with 2 goals in the final 3:06.
Three of Stevenson's 24 wins this spring came in the playoffs. Stevenson's win total all of last spring: five.
"We kept battling and fighting and pushing," said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, whose team (24-9) trailed 5-2 and 7-4 in the second half. "(Shkiler) played like a man tonight. He's wiry and long, and the strength of his legs makes him so explosive. The teams that do well are the teams with guys who play the highest out of the water.
"I couldn't be more proud of our guys," he added. "They truly deserve a trophy this weekend."