If there was ever a wake-up call after only the first week of the new high school water polo season, the Stevenson girls got it.
The reigning state champs and preseason No. 1 team in Illinois cruised to victories in their first two games during their season-opening quad Saturday morning in Lincolnshire, before losing their finale to Lyons.
In Stevenson's defense, the Patriots were without three key players in USC-bound Claire Haas, Eleanor Michaud and keeper Anna Mossakowskie. They were in California attending an Olympic Development National tryout. Haas is the reigning player of the year in Illinois.
In its first contest, Stevenson coasted by Palatine 15-0. Nine different players scored with Lauren Maloney, Kalista Tapas, and Eileen Hoang each scoring hat tricks. Keeper Val Zlotnikova recorded just 2 saves only because the Stevenson defense was stingy in allowing only 3 Palatine shots for the game.
"We know we have a target on our back this season," Stevenson coach Jeff Wimer said. "But we're really deep and experienced and played with a lot of intensity."
That was evident in Stevenson's second game, as the Patriots upended ninth-ranked Lincoln-Way Central 15-5.
The depth Wimer referred to showed again as 10 girls found the scoring column, led by Tapas and Maloney with hat tricks. Zlotnikova tallied 5 saves as the defense did its thing again in limiting the Griffins to 5 shots for the game.
Then came a hiccup and a rarity occurred: Stevenson getting beat in the second half.
"We never lose the second half, but this was a good experience for the girls," Wimer said after fifth-ranked Lyons (4-0) came away with a 14-11 decision.
The Pats led 10-8 after three periods, but Lyons outscored them 6-1 in the fourth.
"We needed to tighten the defense, especially on No. 3 (returning all-stater Kaysie Stuba)," Wimer said. "We didn't play her how we wanted to and dropped our guard."
Stuba scored 7 goals, including one at the 2:20 mark that gave Lyons the lead for good, 12-11.
Amelia Eastman, Maloney and Hoang each scored a pair of goals in the losing effort.
"Bottom line, this was good competition with all the focus of playing our best in May," Wimer said.
Lyons won the quad with a 3-0 record, while Stevenson was 2-1, Lincoln-Way East 1-2 and Palatine 0-3.
Despite Palatine's results, there were some good things the Pirates could take away from the day. Palatine fell to Stevenson (15-0), Lincoln-Way East (11-0) and Lyons (11-1).
"We have a lot of new, younger players and a lot of work ahead of us," coach Mitch Tucker said after his team fell to 0-5 overall. "We've had some rough games so far, but we didn't give up, and we're only going to get better playing strong competition like today."
Against Lyons, Palatine's Hannah Bellof disrupted any thoughts of a shutout by scoring with 5:10 left in the fourth.
Tucker was quick to praise the efforts of senior goalie Claire Davis, who stopped numerous shots from point-blank range during the three games.
"She's the anchor of our defense and definitely gives us a spark," Tucker said.