A Wheeling victory over Hersey at Olympic Pool on Tuesday would've clinched an appearance in the Mid-Suburban League girls water polo championship game for the Wildcats.
The Huskies had other ideas, though, and as a result, the MSL East race will likely go down to the wire.
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Using a stellar defensive effort and an efficient offensive performance, Hersey beat the Wildcats 6-2 to force a tie in the East standings with two games left for both teams. Both teams are 7-1 against divisional foes.
The game also was a milestone of sorts for Hersey coach Megan Brownley, who is in her fifth year of coaching but had never beaten Wheeling before Tuesday's game.
The outcome wasn't really a surprise to Hersey (10-7, 7-1), though. In the first meeting at Wheeling, Hersey lost 3-2.
"We really felt like we probably should have won the first game," said Brownley, "so we thought we'd have a chance in this one."
Both Brownley and one of her team captains, Karolina Szymaszek, thought team unity made all the difference Tuesday.
"In that first game, our energy and togetherness wasn't really where it need to be," said Szymaszek. "But we really came together and played the way we knew we could today."
One key to the outcome was the effort of Hersey's Kelly Johnson, a first-year polo player who'd spent her previous springs playing softball. She led all scorers with 3 goals, including a pair from the wing in the third period that put the Huskies up 3-0. Szymaszek finished the period by scoring from the wing with three seconds left and Hersey led 4-0.
"Hersey is an outstanding defensive team," said Wheeling coach Bob Savitt, "so you know coming in that any goal -- giving one up, or scoring one yourself-- is really going to matter.
"We had some problems executing some of the things we run. Just not our best performance."
Yet the Wildcats (11-9, 7-1) still made a game of it, as Theresa Godlewski scored twice early in the fourth quarter to force a Hersey timeout.
But Hersey goalie Natalie Curtis was stellar throughout, and the Huskies jumped comfortably back in front on a breakaway goal from Johnson. The Huskies got their final goal on a man-up situation with Jill Hoffman finding the net.
Wheeling has games remaining against Buffalo Grove and Elk Grove, while Hersey will play Prospect and BG.
Conant 8, Hoffman Estates 5: Carmen Rosas drew two ejections and scored three times to pace the Cougars in MSL West action.
Barrington 21, Palatine 7: Kelly Meckert (5 goals), Lisa Danhauer (4) and Sam Gavars and Catherine Byron (3 each) paced the visiting Fillies (18-2, 8-0), who clinched a tie for the Mid-Suburban West title with their road win and need one more victory for an outright divisional title.
Rachel Chumbook (3 goals)and Caroline Wojtas (2) led the scoring for Palatine (14-10, 4-4).
Fremd 12, Schaumburg 4: The Vikings (14-7, 6-2) stayed 1 game back of Barrington in the MSL West by winning at Schaumburg.