Applying defensive pressure from the get-go is what makes the Stevenson boys water polo team dangerous. Once that pressure puts a vice-grip on opponents, the offense is going to produce shortly thereafter.
That formula was on display once again Saturday morning, when the Patriots captured their seventh consecutive sectional crown by upending sectional host and second-seeded Buffalo Grove 15-5.
Inching closer to successfully defending its state title, Stevenson (29-4) moves on to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in five years. The state quarterfinals are next Friday at Stevenson followed by the finals on Saturday.
"The coaches preach that (defensive pressure) every day and to counter hard," said junior attacker Sam Shokodko, who had a lot to do with the quick start that saw Stevenson build a 9-0 lead by the end of the opening frame. "I knew the guy was going to foul, so I just waited for him to open up and got a few steals. When our defense causes turnovers, it creates more scoring opportunities."
Shokodko's pressure defense and 2 steals helped Stevenson jump to a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Senior attacker Justin Ginsberg popped in the first two goals, senior utility Eric Osuch added the third, and the Patriots were off and running.
"Once we jump on teams and get a lead, we're hard to beat," said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, whose team jumped back into the top spot in the state rankings last week. "Our defense was outstanding in allowing them only one goal in the first half. And the offense was clicking on all cylinders."
Senior utility Collin Kapecki scored two unanswered goals, Ginsberg added his third, freshman attacker Dima Kobets scored twice, and sophomore attacker AJ Carollo added a goal to round out the first-quarter scoring.
Buffalo Grove got on the board when attacker Andy Gontko rifled one past Patriots keeper Charlie Day to cut the deficit to 9-1 to open the second period.
But junior defender Filip Mihajlovic, Osuch, Ginsberg and Kobets answered with single goals to increase the Stevenson lead to 13-1 by halftime.
Day stopped 7 shots in three quarters of action. Kapecki scored his third and Ginsberg netted his fifth to up the lead to 15-1 early in the third.
Freshman keeper Alex Mitchell relieved Day in the fourth and was disruptive in goal while stopping two Bison shots.
Buffalo Grove made a nice push in the second half, scoring 4 goals. Attackers Daniel Korol and Kacper Aniecko scored late in the third to make it 15-3.
Korol then scored his second, and Daniel Verdico fed Kenny Smith to round out the Bison scoring in the fourth.
"It is what it is," said coach Scott Kopecky, whose Bison finished 25-6 overall while winning the MSL East with a 10-0 mark. "We didn't even make the sectionals four years ago, so this was a goal to get to the title game this spring, and I couldn't be more proud of the guys. We played better in the second half, but they (Stevenson) are so fast and they forced a lot of turnovers."
Korol had scored the game-winner with 14 seconds left to give BG a thrilling 6-5 win over third-seeded Mundelein in the semis the night before.
"We have to walk before we can run," said Kopecky, who graduates seven seniors but has a solid nucleus returning. "Winning a big game the way we did last night was great for our experience and is something we can build on for next year."