Girls water polo: Unbeaten Stevenson handles Naperville North
The Stevenson girls water polo team is ready to get on with the state series.
After all, the Patriots are ranked No. 1 in the state, the defending champs and are cooking with gas with an unblemished mark of 27-0, which includes a current winning streak of 60 straight dating back to last March.
"We don't really think about it," said Pats coach Jeff Wimer. "They stay very grounded and are good at taking it one game at a time."
Wimer and his girls got another good tune up when Naperville North came calling on Senior Night in Lincolnshire on Wednesday.
The fourth-ranked Huskies battled valiantly but ended up a little short, 15-9.
Lainey Eckholm got things started with a goal two minutes into the contest and Naperville North had a 1-0 lead.
Stevenson came right back with the equalizer when keeper Anna Mossakowski heaved a pass to Eleanor Michaud, who promptly knocked one past the outstretched arms and hands of Huskies keeper Grace Raquel (8 saves). It all started with a steal by Lauren Maloney.
The Huskies kept the pressure on and Anna Tarantino put them ahead 2-1. Maloney then scored her first of 6 goals on the night to draw even 2-2. One of the Huskies' top players, senior Taylor Wessel, then scored to give Naperville North a 4-3 lead after the first seven minutes.
But no lead is safe against the Pats, which was evidenced by them outscoring Naperville North 6-1 in the second for an 8-4 lead at halftime. Maloney tallied 4 more goals, while Kalista Tapas, and Maddie Meirhaeghe added single goals.
"Our chemistry is so amazing and we just really trust each other," said Tapas, who finished with 2 goals. "We have an unbelievable connection in the water. We were just a little slow to warm up tonight. We need to jump out faster."
Tarantino scored the lone second quarter goal for the Huskies.
Stevenson held its ground in the third with balanced scoring. Tapas scored her second, followed by Michaud, and Maddy O'Donnell and Shreya Sreedhar with single goals.
Wessel's goal to open the fourth made it 12-8 but Stevenson answered again with goals by Sreedhar and Michaud, her third. With a player on her back, Wessel popped one in past Mossakowski to cut it to 14-9. But Maloney scored her sixth in the final 25 seconds for the final margin of victory.
Maloney, Tapas, Michaud and Sreedhar are the top four scorers for Stevenson, all with over 50 goals.
"Stevenson's a tough team," said Naperville North coach Andy McWhirter. "We want to take a game like today and work on our defense so we can put a good run together next week for sectionals."
Meanwhile, the Huskies' boys' team spoiled Stevenson's Senior Night with a hard-fought 13-11 victory.
"I guess we have a little chip on our shoulder," said North's Jack Tarantino. "Stevenson's a great team and beating them helps signify that we're trending upward and in time for sectionals. We know we're capable of hanging with some tough teams."
Tarantino is one of the top scorers for the Huskies.
He poured in 4 goals on the night as Naperville North outscored the Pats 7-2 during the middle two quarters for a 10-6 lead after the third.
That included holding Stevenson scoreless in the third, when the Pats usually starts turning on the jets.
"Our defense has been OK. We just need to move the ball a little better and make better passes on offense," added Tarantino.
Stevenson keeper Alex Mitchell tossed a long pass to Dima Kobets for the game's first score. Naperville North then tied it on a goal by Jack Wallace. From there both teams traded punches with Kobets' goal giving the hosts a 4-3 lead after one.
Kobets also scored his third goal of the quarter with seven ticks left, while single goals were tallied by Sammy Maya and Filip Mihajlovic.
The second period featured two penalty shots by Tarantino, who scored 3 goals in the frame.
Kobets' penalty shot with 4:53 left in regulation drew Stevenson to within 11-10.
But Tarantino's goal upped the lead to 12-10. Kobets then scored again to make it 12-11 but Chase McClure scored the Huskies' final goal.
Kobets had a couple of chances toward the end but Naperville North keeper Steven Marlowe (8 saves) came up with two big blocks.
"We have really balanced scoring with six guys with over 20 goals this spring," said Huskies coach Martin Bell, whose team is now 20-8."We've played some amazing competition this season and think we're peaking at the right time."