Girls water polo: Stevenson tops Mundelein, returns to Elite Eight
There's a saying, "Don't be sad that it's over. Be happy that it happened."
While the second-ranked Stevenson girls water polo team posted a 16-2 victory over Mundelein in the Deerfield sectional final Saturday, that cliché fit Mustangs senior utility player Jessica Peterson to a T.
"We left it all out there and then some," said Peterson, fighting back tears after she closed out her four-year high school playing career. "We've had our ups and downs, but it has been a pleasure playing for this team. It's been amazing to be a part of our program, getting better every year. And a lot has to do with the dynamic coach (Mike Vukovics) has brought to the program."
Stevenson (31-2) advances to the state quarterfinals and will play St. Ignatius College Prep at 7 p.m. Thursday at Stevenson.
It's been four years since Mundelein has won a sectional but as Peterson said, this program is right there. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they ran into Stevenson's juggernaut.
Junior attacker Claire Haas popped in her first of her 7 scores 20 seconds into the game, and the Patriots were off and running. The tenacity was there for Mundelein, especially early on, when junior attacker Abbie Lukas answered Haas right back with a score to tie it at 1-1 with 5:35 left in the first period.
A couple of minutes later, sophomore Ashley Carollo, scored to give Stevenson the lead for good at 2-1. Carollo was filling in for fellow sophomore Eleanor Michaud, who was nursing a wrist injury.
Carollo also made an impact on defense, collecting 5 steals to go along with her 3 assists. Stevenson senior attacker Julia Nicholson made it 3-1 after the first.
"We were very patient and played excellent defense," said Patriots coach Jeff Wimer, whose girls finished third in state last year.
The offense started cranking it up, while the defense took over from the second period on. Haas racked up her other 6 goals, while junior Eileen Hoang and sophomores Lauren Maloney and Kalista Tapas each added a pair of scores.
Tapas filled in for starter Fiona Gaffney, who was attending her sister's communion.
Meanwhile, Lukas scored the other goal for Mundelein, which finished 22-12 after winning just 10 games a year ago.
"We put the work in every day, and like I said in our "Miracle on Ice" speech before the game, the girls deserve to be here," first-year coach Vukovics said. "We've played with tenacity and heart and don't hold back."