The season is still young but as far as St. Charles North boys water polo coach Chris Cloy is concerned, watching his team suffer narrow defeats is getting a little old.
The North Stars (3-3), who won 3 of 4 matches at last weekend's Stagg Invitational before losing a 6-5 decision to Waubonsie Valley Tuesday night, let a 2-goal lead slip away during Thursday's 6-4 loss to Lockport (2-0) in St. Charles.
"You never want to end up on the losing end of it," said Cloy, whose team is trying to improve upon its 17-14 record from last season. "Last weekend, I told the team they need to get comfortable at being uncomfortable because the games that we are going to be in are going to be one- or two-goal games.
"Our three losses are by a total of four goals. We're getting some experience in close games and I think it's going to pay off at the end of the season."
St. Charles North got off to a positive start as junior hole-set John Pretet received a pass from Nick Traxler and fired a shot past Lockport goalie Tyler Trench (5 saves) at the 4:14 mark of the first quarter for a 1-0 lead.
The North Stars upped their lead to 2-0 a couple minutes later when Traxler converted a penalty shot before Jake Speechley got the Porters on the board late in the opening quarter.
Pretet recorded his second goal of the game to give the North Stars a 3-1 halftime advantage.
During the halftime break, Lockport coach Joe Lewandowski decided the time was right for a few defensive changes.
"You've got to make the adjustments defensively when you see such a dominant hole-set (Pretet)," said Lewandowski.
After Lockport drew within 3-2 early in the third quarter, Traxler delivered his second penalty shot of the match to push the North Stars' lead to 4-2.
Moments later, senior goalie Collin Bawolek came up with the save of the game as he stonewalled Jacob Jagodzinski from point-blank range to preserve the North Stars' 2-goal lead.
"Collin Bawolek was outstanding," Cloy said of his goalie who recorded 11 of his 15 saves in the second half. "He kept us in the game."
With 2 minutes left in the third quarter, Zach Elias found the back of the net as Lockport trimmed the North Stars' lead to 4-3.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Porters -- particularly Speechley, who accounted for all of the scoring with 3 goals.
His penalty shot tied the score at 4-4 with 4:44 left and he gave Lockport its first lead nearly a minute later with his third goal of the game. Speechley capped the scoring when he hit the upper right-hand corner of the net with 1:57 remaining.
"They weren't pressing us on the outside so we nailed the outside shots," said Lewandowski. "But I thought our defense really won the game for us. They weren't getting those looks to him (Pretet) so he wasn't able to get the ejections."
"We played really well but Lockport played just a little better," said Cloy. "Lockport has established itself as a great program. It's always a challenge to play them and I thought our kids played really well. We played great defense only giving up six goals."
"We've got to come back fighting," said Bawolek. "We've got to keep working hard in practice and hopefully we'll come out on top in some of them (close games)."