This Stevenson-Mundelein rivalry in boys water polo is truly something.
A good decade ago, both teams were at full strength and battled every year. And they then messed with the pool at Mundelein, and the home team suffered for it.
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"Two years ago, we were 5-25,'' said Mundelein coach Russell Gates.
On Saturday, it was 19-game winner Mundelein hosting the sectional final against coach Sean Wimer's 25-game winning Patriots team.
Stevenson raced to a quick 4-0 lead and never looked back in a 12-5 win over the Mustangs. And the Pats are going home for the state tournament come Thursday night.
"It's nice to get it at our pool,'' said Stevenson senior Zach Stephens. "It's the best pool in the state."
The Pats (26-7) got its first goal after three minutes had passed, as Alex Divanyan scored. Less than a minute later, Stephens had found the net.
The third quarter belonged to the Pats. And a big help went to Alex Kapecki, who tallied three times as the Pats surged ahead for good. Divanyan scored again to make it 6-1. Liam Holzer's goal came with three seconds to play in the third quarter, and the Pats were in complete control at 10-1.
"They really shut us down on defense,'' Gates said. "It's a credit to them. We did a pretty good job in our halfcourt defense. But I'm glad we are back in a sectional final. That's where we want to be."
Andrew Gray and Jude Krauss tallied for Mundelein in the second half.
Stevenson answered with goals from Michael Taiberg, Mitchell Sokoslky and Holzer.
"We played really good defense,'' Holzer said. "It was very productive."
Stephens gave credit to the home team.
"They have improved a lot,'' Holzer said. "They are probably the most improved team in the area."
Stevenson's coach is the son of longtime Stevenson girls coach, Jeff Wimer.
"He's an incredible coach,'' Jeff Wimer said of his son. "He started playing this game 25 years ago, and he's still plugging along. I'm proud of my son and the Stevenson boys."
And clearly this Stevenson team is ready for the state playoffs at their own pool.
"It's three days a week and getting up 5:45 in the morning,'' Stephens said. "And practice right after school."
Many polo players naturally come to this sport from swimming.
"We swim for water polo,'' Stephens said.
Stephens has read ahead and knows exactly who will be in the pool at Stevenson this coming week.
The first game of the night on Thursday pits the Pats against Brother Rice.
"We have beaten them twice,'' Stephens said.
And in the second game of the night comes the Loyola Ramblers.
"We've lost to them twice,'' he said. "But both games have been great."