Boys water polo: Stevenson, Naperville Central prep for state
With the top-five ranked teams in the state present, the Stevenson boys water polo tournament in Lincolnshire served as an excellent tune-up for the fast-approaching postseason.
It's also a chance to fine-tune the depth factor, as players are usually brought up from the JV to help provide added insurance should they be needed in crunch time in the state series.
With Stevenson senior keeper Charlie Day getting a break, freshman Alex Mitchell got some excellent experience in goal in the Pats' final game of the event Saturday afternoon. The result was a 9-7 victory over Lincoln-Way East.
Stevenson, ranked No. 2 in the state by illpolo.com, finished the event 3-1 with the only loss coming to third-ranked Lyons 9-7 on Friday evening. Lyons ended up winning the eight-team event with a 4-0 mark.
"I've played club for the Stevenson feeder program, but this is a whole different story," said Mitchell. "I'm realizing that it's a lot of hard work, but the chemistry is amazing on this team. It's a little intimidating but I like the intensity, especially around the net with everyone yelling. It gets you psyched and builds the confidence."
In the victory over the 15th-ranked Griffins, Stevenson's offense showed its versatility with 6 different scorers finding the back of the net.
Junior Filip Mihajlovic, sophomore AJ Carollo and freshman Dima Kobets each score twice while juniors Sam Shokodko and Beno Maya and freshman utility Drew Wangard scored 1 apiece.
"We had a tough one with Lyons (yesterday) but this is a great learning experience for the guys and a chance to work on our depth," said Pats coach Sean Wimer, whose team improved to 24-3 overall after the weekend. "We've got a lot of guys stepping up, which is very encouraging."
In fact, six different players also scored in that 9-4 win earlier in the day. Senior Justin Ginsberg scored 4 goals, while seniors Collin Kapecki and Eric Osuch also scored.
What made Wimer especially happy was having three freshmen -- Kobets, Nate Pedigo and Wangard -- also find the scoring column.
"That was one of our best all-around efforts of the season (against Loyola)," he said. "We played well and again had contributions from a lot of guys."
Day was in goal for that game and came away with 7 saves. The defense was also stellar in allowing only 11 shots on goal.
Top-ranked Naperville Central also came away with a fine 3-1 showing.
The Redhawks were without one of the state's top keepers in Kent Emden, who was attending a national tryout Camp in California.
"This was a great chance to get our back-up goalie some time with sectionals coming up," said Naperville Central coach Bill Salentine, whose team improved to 23-1 after suffering its first loss of the season to Lyons 6-4 earlier in the day.
Jonah Klein-Collins filled in admirably in goal for the Redhawks, stopping 8 shots against Lyons. Dominic May, Christian Fleming, Luke Klein-Collins and Ben Russo led the offense with a goal apiece.
The Redhawks then finished the day on a winning note after taking out fourth-ranked Fenwick 8-3.
Brad Sanford popped in 4 goals, while Luke Klein-Collins and Russo scored twice and May once.
Jonah Klein-Collins stopped two Friar shots.
"Our perimeter defense was excellent," said Salentine. "And we're showing we have plenty of weapons on offense. When someone is having an off day, not just 1 guy but 4 or 5 guys can score anywhere from 2-3 goals for us."
The Redhawks were also not at full strength with offensive threat Cameron Dougherty out with the flu.
Despite going 0-3, Palatine played a very spirited and competitive three games against the some of the state's best.
In an 11-10 nail-biter, the Pirates played catch up all game long and finally caught Brother Rice after senior attacker Sean O'Brien scored to even it at 10-10 with 2:03 left in regulation. Rice, however, scored with under a minute left to pull out the win.
"We dug a hole (3-0) and couldn't recover. We had some nice drives and the intensity was good, but we're still shooting ourselves in the foot," said Palatine coach Joe Grzybek, whose team dropped to 6-25 overall.
O'Brien went crazy with 6 goals, while sophomore attacker Sam Adame added a hat trick. Connor Wheatley stopped 5 shots and also scored a goal on a pool-length toss at the end of the third quarter to close the gap to 9-8.
"Realistically, our offense funnels through two or three guys," Grzybek said. "Adame and O'Brien have worked really hard to improve."
In a 15-5 loss to Lincoln-Way East earlier, O'Brien scored all 5 goals and Wheatley stopped 4 shots.
"We're the No. 8 seed in sectionals and we like our draw," said Grzybek. "After all, throw the records out because it's a brand new slate."