Boys water polo: Stevenson claims another conference title
At this point, doing well in conference carries different connotations for the Warren and Stevenson boys water polo teams.
On one hand, you have Warren.
This is still fairly new to the Blue Devils, being a third-year program.
Warren is still picking things up fast and just two weeks ago won its first North Suburban Conference match against Lake Forest.
"The guys were shaking and nervous and not from being cold," said Devils coach Brian Esposito. "They were so excited. We've exceeded expectations by far this year."
True, Warren already has as many wins this year (7) as it did the first two years combined.
"It's been a great learning season. To compete with the best, you have to play the best and Stevenson's one of the best," said Esposito. "Last year, we had four 1-goal losses. This year we have four 1-goal wins. So the guys are picking up any nuances they can."
Tuesday evening was the biggest test yet perhaps when the Devils traveled to Lincolnshire for a date with the Patriots, currently ranked fourth in the state.
"I was proud of the way we played," Esposito said. "Stevenson is where we want to be. It's a classy program. We know what we're doing. Just need to cut down on silly mistakes."
As for Stevenson, the Patriots are no stranger to deep runs in the state series. And their grip on the NSC ended another chapter on Tuesday as they upended the Devils 15-3.
With the win, Stevenson claimed its eighth conference title in a row.
"This year has been different," said Pats coach Sean Wimer, whose team improved to 12-6 overall and 4-0 in the league.
"There's a lot more teaching involved, versus strategizing. We're so young but the guys are responding and doing a good job of keeping focus."
One guy who was really focused on Tuesday was sophomore Dima Kobets, the team's leading scorer with 51 goals coming into the Warren game.
Kobets, who attended a national youth team selection camp in California last weekend, had 7 goals to lead the way. He got things going with a score not even 30 seconds into the game. From there, he added three more in the frame as Stevenson went ahead 4-1 after one quarter.
"It's always great to win conference and gain momentum for the upcoming sectionals," said Kobets. "It's been a learning and developing season. It's just tweaking the little things, like communication between us in the water."
After Kobets' first goal, Mark Holzer blasted one past Devils keeper Riley Nebel, who had 11 saves for the game.
Trailing 2-0, Warren got on the board when Santiago Currea connected to make it 2-1. Then came Kobets' other 2 goals.
Kobets picked right up where he left off, popping in 3 unanswered goals to start the second and all of the sudden Stevenson was creating separation at 7-1.
Jacob Whiting, David Gorin, and Sammy Maya also added single goals as Stevenson led 10-1 at the half.
Wimer had his team swim with 10-pound weight bags for the morning practice, which paid nice dividends.
"We have so many swim sets and are working on our legs all the time," said Kobets. "You don't even feel it after a while."
Stevenson added 4 more goals in the third for a 14-1 advantage.
Kobets scored, followed by a goal by Grant Huey and 2 by Dan Maraldo to close the quarter.
Gorin added his second of the game in the fourth, while Warren scored twice. Joemil Duka fed Currea, followed by Austin Edmondson's nice dish to Dan Sowa.
Stevenson keeper Alex Mitchell stopped 13 shots in the victory.
"Brian (Esposito) has done a great job," said Wimer. "That's a team on the rise. Once they establish themselves, they'll be a force."