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updated: 5/22/2014 10:37 PM

Fast-starting Stevenson rolls into semifinals

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By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent

Host Stevenson wasted little time getting rolling Thursday night in the boys water polo state tournament.

The Patriots jumped all over Brother Rice in this quarterfinal contest as they built a commanding 9-1 lead over the Crusaders at halftime before coasting to a 12-7 victory.

Stevenson (27-7) advanced to the semifinals against Loyola Academy (29-5) Saturday at 10:15 a.m. Brother Rice closed out its season with an 11-18 record.

After placing second in the state to a highly regarded Fenwick squad last spring, the Patriots opened up their 2014 Elite Eight tourney on a mission to try to reach the top of the mountain this time around.

And just 1:05 into the contest, Stevenson senior Mitchell Sokolsky took a pass from teammate Alex Divanyan and scored from the point for a quick 1-0 lead.

Sokolsky kept the momentum going with his second goal of the game from close range 2:17 later as Brother Rice was unable to solve the Pats' aggressive offensive pressure in the early going.

Then Stevenson freshman Andrew Shashin made a strong pass across to Divanyan, who scored from close range just to the left of Brother Rice goaltender Kevin Kenny for a 3-0 advantage with 1:36 remaining in the opening quarter.

Things got much more out of hand for the Crusaders in the second quarter as a shot by Stevenson's Zach Stephens hit the post before sophomore teammate Kurt Holzer fired home the rebound for a 4-0 lead 3:34 before halftime.

Sophomore Alex Kapecki's goal from the left wing boosted the lead to 5-0 43 seconds later. Then Divanyan went 1-on-1 with Kenny, using a spin move before scoring the Pats' sixth goal of the contest.

Senior Michael Taiberg's shot managed to dribble past Kenny for a 7-0 lead before Brother Rice's Brennan Russell broke up Stevenson goaltender Shaurya Gilani's shutout with 1:24 left in the first half.

The Patriots responded to that goal just 10 seconds later as Taiberg's second goal boosted the lead back to 8-1.

Then with 41 seconds left in the second quarter, Kapecki scored his second goal to give Stevenson its comfortable 9-1 lead.

"We played pretty good defense, and offensively I think we moved the ball around pretty easily," said Sokolsky, who was a big part of the Pats' 2013 state runner-up team. "We're very confident, we're in our home pool that is always a good advantage, and I think we have a great chance to win it all."

The Crusaders actually struck first in the third quarter as a goal by Matt Bachler made the score 9-2 with 2:21 remaining in the period.

But Divanyan bounced home a long-range shot just 28 seconds later to give Gilani (12 saves) and the Patriots a commanding 10-2 lead.

Bachler scored on a penalty shot with 1:35 left in the third quarter. But that goal was matched by Shashin, who followed home his own rebound for an 11-3 lead after three quarters.

"All season long we've gotten off to slow starts, but the guys have used last season's championship game loss as motivation all season long," said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, whose team outshot Brother Rice 44-35 overall. "We lost one of the best goaltenders in the state (Rob O'Brien) last year, but Gilani has been really impressive and it all starts with our defense."

With the big lead, Stevenson had the luxury of using some more of its substitutes in the fourth quarter as the Crusaders cut the gap to 11-4 on Dan Whalen's goal with 4:38 to play.

Sokolsky scored his third goal on a penalty shot for a 12-4 lead with 2:11 to go before Brother Rice scored three goals in the final 1:58 to account for the final score.

"They (Loyola) are a very good team, we're a very good team, and our kids want to play them," said Wimer, whose team lost two very close games to the Ramblers earlier this season. "There are four teams that can win it this year, I think it's pretty wide open, and both Saturday games are coin flips."

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