Only three seniors were listed on the Naperville North boys water polo roster last season as the Huskies reached the state quarterfinals.
So going into this season, there were a lot of players returning and hungry to go beyond that quarterfinal appearance.
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On Saturday the Huskies saw the first goal on their 2013 list come true as they confirmed their second consecutive state appearance with an 18-5 win over Hinsdale Central in the Neuqua Valley sectional final.
Naperville North, the top seed in its sectional and ranked No. 2 in the state in one poll, takes on New Trier at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire in the opening round of state competition.
"Obviously, we all excited. All the work we've done this season has paid off. This was a big win today to give us momentum going into state," said Luke Landiak, who scored 3 goals.
Naperville North had beaten the Red Devils twice during the regular season, but Hinsdale Central was seeded third in the sectional and ranked seventh in the state.
It was the Red Devils who scored first, just 45 seconds into the game courtesy of Dan Ciciora. The Huskies followed with 3 unanswered goals from Eric Curia, Landiak and Drake McClure. Curia led the Huskies with 5 goals and McClure finished with 2.
Hinsdale Central cut the lead to one with 2:20 remaining when George Koulouris converted a penalty shot. However, Naperville North had the last say with seconds remaining as Curia stole the ball and tossed it almost pool-length to Garret Nash on a breakaway and he made good on his shot from no more than a yard out.
The second quarter saw Naperville North score 4 unanswered goals to take an 8-2 halftime lead. The Huskies outscored the Red Devils 10-3 in the final two quarters.
"I thought we started out slow. It was a rough start, a lot of ejections. It took a lot of adjustments," said Naperville North assistant coach Ryan Stanley. "We just continued to swim well. Our conditioning just seemed to be better."
The rest of the Huskies' scoring came from Gianmarco Duin with 3, Joe Tomashek with 2 and Blakedaniel Chapman and Nolan Roberts with 1 apiece.
"I thought our passing was strong. We were making the ball fluid and not relying on just one person," Curia said. "I'm looking forward to state. It's my last year, and I can't wait to end it strong."