Less than a month remains before the start of water polo sectionals, and a competition like the two-day Best of the West Tournament, which concluded Saturday at Naperville North, is a good indication of where a team stands at this point of the season.
Naperville Central ran its record to 16-0 after it clinched the tourney title with a 13-2 victory over the host Huskies in the final game of the competition.
"We're coming along pretty nicely. We're working on some things in practice like our man-up and man-down defense," said Luke Klein-Collins who led the Redhawks with three goals. "We just need to continue to play fundamental water polo."
It was the third battle of the season between the crosstown rivals, and the Huskies (12-9) put up a solid first quarter. Goalie Ben Lovick stopped Naperville Central's first two shots of the game and the Naperville North defense kept it tight in front of the team's net.
Owen Jacobs cut Naperville Central's lead to 2-1 with 1:28 remaining with the Redhawks ahead 3-1 at the end of the quarter.
"We let up a little bit (after the first quarter). Like a race car driver, if you let up on the gas even just a little bit, somebody is going to pass you. And you can't play comeback against a team like Central," said Huskies coach Martin Bell.
Chase McClure put Naperville North to within 4-2 midway through the second quarter for what ended up as the Huskies' final goal.
Luke Klein-Collins and Cameron Dougherty hit net to give Naperville Central a 6-2 halftime advantage. Dougherty finished with two goals.
The third quarter saw the Redhawks score five unanswered goals to break the contest open at 11-2.
Luke Klein-Collins, Brad Sanford, Dominic May and Jonah Klein-Collins, who also had two goals, were the scorers.
Naperville Central coach Bill Salentine likes what he sees from his team, but with the time remaining in the season, he believes the Redhawks' game needs to be fine-tuned.
"We have work to do. We need to put together four solid quarters. Naperville North had a good first quarter. We did not. The second, third and fourth quarters were much better," he said.
Christian Fleming scored twice for the Redhawks as well with Lucas Nervig tallying one score. Goalie Kent Emden also scored and finished with two saves. Emden said the key for Naperville Central the rest of the way is to not let up.
"We need to continue our work ethic both at practice and in games. We need to continue to play smart," he said.
When the Redhawks defeated the Huskies for the second time this season in March, Naperville North fell to 3-5. Bell spoke of the improvement the team has made.
"The word I used (in the postgame meeting) is progress. We're young and inexperienced. We took our lumps early and I knew we would," he said.
Both teams began Saturday with games against Lincoln-Way Central. The Redhawks won 14-2 while the Huskies fell 9-7. On Friday the first day of the tournament, North beat Stagg and Mundelin. Naperville Central beat Buffalo Grove and Hinsdale Central.