After a tough 8-7 loss to Lincoln-Way Central in the semifinals, Mundelein was hoping to finish its great season with a win Saturday afternoon in the girls state water polo tournament.
But after falling behind Mother McAuley 8-4 after three quarters of the third-place game at Stevenson, the Mustangs had to settle for fourth place as their huge late comeback attempt fell a little bit short in an 11-9 loss to the Mighty Macs.
Mother McAuley (29-5) captured its sixth top-three trophy while Mundelein (28-6) now has three top-four trophies in Elite Eight competition.
Trailing 8-4 after three quarters, the fourth quarter was a particularly wild one Saturday as the Mustangs outscored their opponents 5-3 in that period.
Unfortunately for Mundelein, Mother McAuley was able to build a commanding 11-5 lead with 1:51 to play after senior Kristen Kleist fired her fifth goal of the game past goalie Anna Ward (11 saves).
Senior Kasia Wienckowski started the Mustangs' last-ditch effort as her goal with 1:20 remaining cut the gap to 11-6 to keep Mundelein's slim hopes alive.
The Mustangs really kept the pressure on Mother McAuley goalie Sarah Abbott in the final minutes. Abbott was able to stop senior Courtney Perrault's shot, but not junior Allie Boothe's shot as her fifth goal of the game made the score 11-7 with 39 seconds to go.
Then junior Karrie Kozokar came through with her second goal of the game from long distance to pull to Mundelein within 11-8 with 16 seconds left. Kozokar was the hero in Mundelein's quarterfinal victory Thursday night with an IHSA-tying record 9 goals against Barrington.
Mundelein forced a turnover on the Mighty Macs before Boothe scored her sixth goal to make it 11-9. But with only 2.82 seconds on the clock, the huge rally was over and time had run out on the Mustangs' gutsy team.
"It was a tough battle, but it was a lot of fun and we wanted to play our best game even though we were down in the third quarter," said Boothe, whose team only trailed 4-2 at halftime. "For the majority of the girls it was their first time at state and it got a lot closer late in the game."
Trailing 1-0, Boothe's first goal tied the game at 1-1 with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
The Mighty Macs went up 2-1 before Kozokar tied the game 58 seconds into the second quarter.
But Mother McAuley really took over the game after that point with 3 goals by Kleist and a goal by Amy Kopale boosting the lead to 6-2 early in the third quarter.
"They played amazing all weekend long," said Mother McAuley coach Vanessa Carroll, whose team also suffered an 8-7 loss in the semifinals Saturday. "And we wanted to end the season with a big win."
The Mustangs continually battled back in the second half, with 2 goals by Boothe cutting the lead to 7-4 midway through the third quarter. But for the most part Mundelein was forced to play "catch-up" the whole game.
"This is a team (Mother McAuley) that beat us solidly twice during the regular season and as of last week they were ranked first in the state," said Mundelein coach Drew Schneider. "We lost this game, but I see it as a moral victory because they kept fighting until the final minute."
Schneider will lose many key seniors to graduation, but he really has two great juniors to build around next year in Kozokar and Boothe.
"I'm really proud of the way Allie (Boothe) played today," said Schneider. "She has tons of intensity and she plays with a huge heart."