Boys water polo state tournament
Where: Stevenson High School
Thursday's quarterfinals Sandburg vs. Naperville North, 4:30 p.m.
St. Ignatius vs. Fenwick, 5:45 p.m.
Stevenson vs. Brother Rice, 7 p.m.
Palatine vs. Loyola, 8:15 p.m.
The Mid-Suburban League champs have a tough test in front of them, as Loyola is traditionally one of the state's elite water polo programs. But an early season matchup between the teams during Palatine's own invitational was competitive, with Loyola winning 13-9, and Pirates coach Joe Grzybek believes his team still hasn't quite reached its top gear. What gives him hope is that he's never had a team capable of scoring the way this team has; now if the overall defensive execution can match up, Palatine (24-9) could give about any team in the state fits. Seniors Omar El Hoffi (148 goals), Kristiyan Kalev (126) and Wally Kleinfeldt (109) are the big three in terms of scoring for Palatine, with El Hoffi (61 assists) frequently generating scoring chances for others from the wing. Ryan Schlaiss, Mike Yurchesen, Mihai Maior and Jacob Baran also score regularly, and Baran's 2-meter defense has been stellar while Charlie Davis and Colin White have shared goalkeeping duties. Loyola (28-5) topped Fenwick 9-8 to win the MCAC tournament and was basically unchallenged in winning the Glenbrook South sectional. Senior Cameron Shewchuck (96 goals, 49 assists) is the top offensive threat on a team with plenty of balance.
Saturday's schedule features semifinals at 9 and 10:15 a.m., with the third-place game scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and the title game set for 6:30 p.m.
-- Aaron Gabriel