Girls water polo: State champ Stevenson wins the one that counts
As expected, a good old-fashioned donnybrook unfolded between the Naperville Central and Stevenson girls water polo teams on Saturday evening in Lincolnshire.
After splitting a pair of games this spring, the Pats took the rubber game when it mattered most: with a state title on the line.
"We started the way we wanted," said Patriots coach Jeff Wimer, whose team's semifinal victory over Mother McAuley earlier in the day was his 600th win, covering stints at Mundelein and now Stevenson. "Safe to say, win No. 601 was the sweetest."
This one certainly didn't disappoint.
Both teams laid it all on the line but it was Stevenson which had the last laugh, prevailing 14-13 in overtime.
The bad taste of an 11-10 overtime loss to Naperville Central a couple of weeks ago was quickly erased.
"We battled so hard and everyone stepped up," added Wimer, who saw senior co-captain Fiona Gaffney score 3 goals to help the Patriots win their second state title in three years and finish 34-2.
Stevenson took command in the early going, racing off to a 4-0 first period lead.
Junior co-captain Claire Haas got things going with a rebound and score one minute into the contest.
Junior attacker Eileen Hoang scored with 3:33 left to make it 2-0, and two more scores from Haas made it 4-0 cushion.
But Naperville Central wasn't going anywhere.
The Redhawks, ranked No. 2 most of the season before their win over then top-ranked Stevenson two weeks ago, made a furious comeback with 4 goals in the second quarter to cut into the deficit.
Junior 2-meter Rylee Brower blasted in two of the goals, while senior defender Emily Rodgers and senior 2-meter Emily Westlove added single goals.
But Haas scored 2 more, the first on a penalty shot, and Stevenson still clung to a 6-4 lead at halftime.
The Pats seemingly took control of the momentum in the third quarter when they outscored the Redhawks 4-2 and took a 10-6 lead after three periods.
Haas led the way with 2 more scores.
But trailing 10-6 heading to the fourth, Westlove went crazy with three of her 4 goals, the latter tying the game 11-11 with 42 ticks left.
"My heart is broken for our seniors," said Redhawks coach Jeff Plackett, whose girls finished the campaign 33-3.
"They've done everything right and played hard every game. I told them don't beat yourself up. Think of the thousands of kids who would give anything for the opportunity to compete at state."
A score from senior co-captain Julia Nicholson turned out to be the eventual game-winner with 2:21 left in the first three-minute OT period.
Sophomore utility Lauren Maloney's goal provided a little insurance in the second three-minute overtime session. Naperville Central scored twice but Maloney's goal with 2:05 helped secure the win, and the title.
Sophomore starting goalie Anna Mossakowski stopped 10 shots in the win.
• Stevenson had upended Mother McAuley 13-7 in an earlier semifinal.
In that game, Haas had 5 scores, sophomore utility Eleanor Michaud had 3 goals. Nicholson and Hoang finished with 2 apiece and Gaffney had a goal and an assist. Keeper Mossakowski recorded 10 saves for the champs.