Two of the top-rated boys water polo teams in the Mid-Suburban West met on Wednesday, with neither team having lost to a divisional foe.
But you could make the argument that Palatine, ranked No. 9 most recently by illpolo.com, was the team to beat. Barrington is the next MSL team in those state rankings, checking in at No. 29.
But as Barrington and Palatine started their contest, it seemed maybe the rankings should have been reversed.
The Broncos' Chase Lesniak scored twice from the perimeter to put the Broncos up 4-2 with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
Palatine managed to tie it before the end of the period, but again Lesniak scored on the first possession of the second quarter to get Barrington ahead 5-4.
Despite the turn of events, Palatine wasn't panicking.
"Honestly, if we're up by 20 or down by 20, we're going to try to play the same," said one of this year's Palatine captains, Wally Kleinfeldt, who had 3 goals.
And over the long haul, that approach seemed to work, as the Pirates outscored the Broncos in each of the final three periods to win 16-10. Kristiyan Kalev led the way for Palatine with 8 goals, while Omar El Hoffi had 4 and Jacob Baran 1.
Lesniak finished with a team-best 4 goals and was a steadying force for a Barrington team that is enjoying a surge in success. It's clear the Broncos have taken a competitive step forward, as players such as Nick Cogswell, Sam Miseyka, Matt Gouskos and Marshall Mathias have complemented Lesniak's skills.
Barrington coach Rob Emary is in his first year leading the program and cites a commitment to improvement as they key.
"Our coaching staff and our players are committed to getting better," he said. "We're taking our conditioning work seriously, and that's showing up."
Palatine (8-3) has hopes of ending up with an MSL West title. Getting one likely means winning the next matchup with Barrington (10-2), which will be April 23 -- this time at Barrington.
Pirates coach Joe Grzybek likes his senior-led team and has been focusing on collective defensive improvement. Junior Jacob Baran has helped Palatine step up in that department with strong 2-meter defense; the goal he allowed Wednesday was the first of the season against an MSL opponent.
"Press and seal -- that's water polo," Grzybek said. "We experimented a little bit with some of our lineup combinations earlier in the season, mainly with an eye on defense. I'd put it this way -- we're getting there."
Fremd 14, Schaumburg 11: Lucas Stark had 6 goals and Connor Helsdingen had 3 to help Fremd past Schaumburg in MSL West play.
Prospect 11, Elk Grove 6: The Knights (7-1, 4-0) kept their record perfect in the MSL East by topping the host Grens.
Hersey 14, Wheeling 6: Michael Buffa and George Vladimirov both scored 4 goals, while Jack Carroll and Connor Reynolds had 3 apiece to help keep the Huskies (6-1, 4-0) tied with Prospect for the MSL East lead.
Nate Reiff had 5 goals for the Wildcats.