Girls water polo: Stevenson's plan is a winner
The Stevenson girls water polo team put the finishing touches on an unprecedented third state title in the last four years after handing Fenwick a 12-7 defeat in the championship game in Lincolnshire on Saturday evening.
The Pats, ranked No. 1 in the state all season, followed a familiar blueprint: pressure defense and balanced scoring.
"A lot has so much to do with chemistry," said All-American attacker and USC-bound senior Claire Haas. "We've all been playing together for so long, we just trust each other in the pool and know what each is going to do.
"And the support of the coaches and fans is amazing. I'm so ecstatic right now. It's going to be hard to leave these girls. I'm so proud of them. They played out of their minds."
Haas did her usual thing, scoring 3 goals and dishing out 3 assists. She also drew 5 ejections and a penalty shot while also collecting 6 steals.
Fenwick (24-7) got on the board first after a goal by junior Pauline Correa 15 seconds into the game.
But Stevenson came right back with goals by junior attackers Kalista Tapas and Lauren Maloney to give the Pats the lead for good at 2-1. Maloney then scored her second and senior attacker Amelia Eastman also scored for a 4-2 advantage after the first frame.
"The girls are so resilient and we pressed them (Fenwick) hard," said coach Jeff Wimer, whose team finished the year 35-1 on the season. "They know what to do out there and trust each other. This is really special for the seniors. They've played together so long. This run we've had started three years ago and everyone has bought into it. We just want to keep the machine rolling."
Stevenson padded its lead to 7-3 at halftime after two scores by Haas and another by Maloney.
Correa scored her second of the game for the only tally in the second for Fenwick.
Then came the huge third quarter, when the Pats really took control.
"That's our quarter. We just needed to settle in," said junior defensive specialist Eleanor Michaud, who scored a goal to go along with 2 assists and 6 steals. "Once we got going and the nerves settled, we knocked it out of the park."
Maloney, who has been an unsung hero all season, led the Pats in scoring with 6 goals, including two more in the third.
Haas added another to make it 10-6 after the third. Correa, Harper Daniels, and Kassy Rodriguez all scored single goals for the Friars, who trailed 10-6 heading to the fourth.
Pats junior keeper Anna Mossakowski took charge in goal in the fourth, stopping 5 big shots -- including one on a penalty to knock the wind out of Fenwick's sails.
"This is big for me," said Mossakowski, who stopped 13 shots on the night. "We've worked so hard and we play, practice and train all year. Definitely worth it, and I owe so much to my teammates. They help take the pressure off. I just try and focus on the ball and react. We mimic shots in practice, which obviously helps."
Maloney scored to lead off the fourth, followed by Michaud taking advantage with a goal in a man-up situation to round out the scoring -- and title -- for Stevenson.
Eastman finished with a goal, assist, and 2 steals, while Maloney also had 1 assist while drawing 2 kick-outs to go along with 7 steals. Tapas had the one goal, 2 assists, and a steal. Senior attacker Eileen Hoang was also disruptive on defense with 8 steals, which ultimately led to 2 Patriot goals.
• Earlier in the day, the champs had beaten Naperville North 13-6 in the semifinals. Maloney scored 6 goals while Haas had 3. Tapas also scored a pair and Mossakowski stopped 8 shots for the Pats, who led 9-1 at halftime.
For the Huskies, Isabelle Rocco scored the hat trick and Taylor Wessel, Meg Sparacino, and Chloe Tsao all had 1 goal apiece. Keeper Grace Raquel stopped 3 shots in the losing effort.
Naperville North went on to beat Loyola 11-9 to earn a third-place trophy, the highest finish the girls program has ever had.
"This is the best we've ever done and I'm so happy for the girls, especially our four seniors (Savannah Swanson, Alli Horn, Kelsey Ryan, and Rocco)," said Naperville North coach Andy McWhirter, whose team finished 24-9-1. "We re-focused after a rough morning and finished it all the way until the end. All of the hard work paid off."
Against Loyola, Rocco and Wessel scored the hat trick and Horn added 2 scores. Single goals were scored by Ryan, sophomore utility Lainey Eckholm and freshman utility Anna Tarantino. Raquel stopped 9 big shots in the victory.
Lauren Voss scored 5 goals for Loyola, which finished 20-14.