Stevenson starts with renewed focus
Rest assured, after falling short in the state championship game last spring, the Stevenson boys water polo team already can't wait for the state series to roll around.
The Patriots' state-title hopes were dashed when Lyons prevailed 9-6 for the crown last season.
"There's a lot of pent-up aggression. These guys are way too excited and are eager to get back in the pool," Stevenson coach Sean Wimer said. "They are so focused on everything, and every day they come to work with a purpose."
That work ethic and mindset definitely showed on Saturday afternoon when the Pats cruised to three victories to win their quadrangular. Wheeling, Fremd and Niles West had joined in on the fun.
Stevenson's final match was against a formidable Fremd club, which lost in the sectional semifinals a year ago. The Pats offense picked up where it had left off from earlier in the day to the tune of a 23-4 victory.
Stevenson got 7 goals from senior attacker Alex Kapecki, four from junior center-defender Andrew Shashin and 3 goals apiece from sophomore attackers Collin Kapecki and Eric Osuch.
"We are so motivated (after losing in the finals last year), and I think we have a little chip on our shoulder," said Osuch. "Our goal is to win state. We just have to keep going and never be content."
Stevenson, which has rung up 99 goals through its first four games, is going to score -- but the defense is equally impressive. Sophomore goalie Charlie Day, who started his first varsity game earlier in the week, made 8 saves against Fremd. Through four games, he is allowing just over 4 goals per contest.
"He's a wild card," Wimer said. "He's lanky, has great range and has really stepped right into his role."
Against Wheeling, Stevenson sprinted to a 14-2 halftime lead and never looked back en route to a 24-5 win. A balanced attack saw Shashin knock in 5 goals, while Alex and Collin Kapecki, and senior utility player Cris Tomassetti each scored four.
In its first match of the day, Stevenson took care of Niles West 25-5. Junior Dan Maleski found the back of the net five times, while Shashin and Alex Kapecki scored 4 goals apiece.
Fremd could be a team to watch in May.
The Vikings, who went 1-2 on Saturday and are 2-2 overall, feature offensive weapons in seniors Robert De Pau, Alex Nicholas, Nate Jordan, Ryan Dudar and Dylan Assmann, who was absent for personal reasons.
Against Stevenson, De Pau, Nicholas, senior Mike Kochanski and sophomore Derek Warnstedt scored a goal apiece.
In its first match of the day, Fremd beat Wheeling 21-8. De Pau scored 6 goals, while Nicholas added five.
"We were intense and moved the ball well," said Vikings coach Brian Newby, whose troops beat Buffalo Grove 20-5 earlier in the week. "We were a little lazy in the second game and need to do a better job of getting back down to help our goalie (junior Mitch Thompson). All I ask is we leave it all in the pool."
Niles West (2-1) led Fremd 8-4 after three quarters and held on for a 10-5 victory. Nicholas scored the hat trick, while Dudar and Jordan each scored a goal apiece for Fremd.
Newby noted that sophomores Warnstedt and Danny Konishi are battling for starting spots.
"They're playing pretty stout for having played for only a year," he said.
Wheeling could also make some waves come the postseason.
The Wildcats won their first two games during the week but dropped three contests in Lincolnshire.
In the loss to Fremd, senior attacker Nate Reiff poured in 7 goals. Reiff is a scoring machine and led Wheeling last year with more than 100 goals.
Reiff and senior attacker Jake Noel popped in 2 goals apiece in the losing effort to Stevenson.
In its final game of the day, Wheeling fell to Niles West 15-8 as Noel tallied 4 goals and Reiff two. Noel, his brother and senior attacker Kyle Noel and Reiff are all three-year varsity starters and will be looked upon to carry a brunt of the load this season.
"We have a lot of fast swimmers but aside from those three seniors, everyone else is pretty much brand new," said coach Rudy Means, whose Wildcats are 2-3. "We're just making little mistakes. You never want to lose, but this was a great tournament with some of the best competition."