Hersey's boys water polo players are serious about their sport.
So much so that many opted to lift weights in eighth period on Thursday, not long before they were scheduled to host Prospect in a matchup at Olympic Pool in Arlington Heights.
And this wasn't just any game -- a victory would clinch the school's first divisional boys water polo championship.
"I asked them, 'Are you sure about this?' " explained Hersey coach Dick Mortensen, "and they said, 'Yes, absolutely.' "
Thanks to a determined effort from Prospect, Hersey had a second session of heavy lifting in store. But the Huskies were indeed victorious, winning 10-8 and earning a spot in the Mid-Suburban League championship game.
Standout players George Vladimirov, Jack Carroll and Connor Reynolds accounted for 8 of Hersey's goals and -- bad news for the rest of the division -- all are juniors.
Prospect opted to double- and triple-team Vladimirov in the early going when Hersey positioned him in hole.
"They were basically daring us to beat them from the outside," Mortensen said, "but at first we couldn't hit the broad side of the barn."
It was tied 4-4 at the half. Hersey (11-8, 8-1) got some separation in the third quarter when Carroll scored consecutive goals.
After Prospect's Liam Hansen scored one of his 4 goals, Vladimirov scored following a Hersey timeout with 21 seconds. Then a Prospect turnover led to a goal from Reynolds with five seconds left in the period to put Hersey up 8-5.
Prospect's Cameron Mauer (4 goals) scored on a man-up possession for the first goal of the fourth quarter before Mike Buffa's outside shot put Hersey up 9-6. Carroll's final goal got Hersey ahead 10-6 with 2:25 left.
The Knights (9-9, 6-3) worked every possession down the stretch, and got two more goals from Hansen before Hersey was able to run out the clock.
Jamey Hill and J Maxwell split time in the deep-end goal for Hersey, and Irving Velasquez was sharp when the Huskies were defending the shallow end.
Hersey has tied its record for wins in a season.
The outcome is especially sweet for Mortensen and Co. due to recent seasons in which superior East teams such as Wheeling and Buffalo Grove have made for some one-sided scores.
"It feels good," Mortensen said. "As a program, it used to be, 'Let's score 2 or 3 goals,' and that would be good enough. Then it was, 'Let's be competitive.' And now it's 'Let's win.' "
Conant 10, Palatine 9 (OT): The Cougars protected their lead in the Mid-Suburban West and can clinch an outright divisional championship and spot in the MSL championship game with a victory in its final league game.
Conant (15-3, 8-1) remains ahead of Fremd (19-7, 7-2) and Palatine (11-7, 6-3) in the MSL West standings with one game remaining. In Tuesday's divisional finales, Conant plays at Schaumburg, Fremd hosts Barrington and Palatine hosts Hoffman Estates.
In Thursday's game, host Palatine led the whole way and through most of the fourth quarter, but Conant came up with 3 fourth-quarter goals to tie it.
Matt Engebretson ended up scoring the deciding goal with :39 left in the second OT period. Jon Burke led the Cougars with 3 goals, Devin Schmitz had 2 and Kyle Bradberry and Brennen Nagorzanski also scored.
Palatine got 3 goals from Christian Kalfas, 2 from Krystian Kalev and Wally Kleinfeldt and 1 from Alex Brons.
Conant goalie Aly Ahmed stopped 13 shots and had 5 steals.
Fremd earned a 10-8 victory over Hoffman Estates to keep pace.
Schaumburg 13, Barrington 7: James Birriel had 4 goals, Austin Borst had 3 and senior goalie Marty Faleni stopped 11 shots to help the Saxons (8-13, 3-6) past the host Broncos.
Chase Lesniak scored twice for Barrington (8-14, 0-9), and Sean Hoffman made 10 saves.