Girls water polo: Stevenson downs Naperville North to make it a state 3-peat

Talk about running the table.

The Stevenson girls water polo team put an exclamation point on an unbeaten 36-0 season after defeating Naperville North 11-5 in the state championship game on Saturday evening in Lincolnshire.

It was the third consecutive state title for Stevenson, which last lost at the beginning of last season and has a 68-game winning streak to show for it.

Part of three sectional and three state titles, senior attacker Lauren Maloney breathed a big sigh of relief when the final horn sounded.

"It's feels so good and is so surreal," said Maloney, the Patriots' leading scorer on the year. "It took us a while to get going but once we did our defense was outstanding."

Naperville North (32-4) ignited its faithful early when senior attacker Taylor Wessel blasted one past Pats keeper Anna Mossakowski for a quick 1-0 lead.

"We started a little slow but I think that first goal got us going," said Mossakowski. "I just try to follow the ball and react."

Stevenson eventually woke up and they did that big-time, scoring 6 unanswered goals for an eventual 7-1 lead at halftime.

Maloney fed Shreya Sreedhar for the equalizer at the 4:35 mark of the first. After a big block by Mossakowski, senior attacker Kalista Tapas lobbed one in from 15 meters out and Stevenson grabbed the lead for good at 2-1 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.

Senior utility Eleanor Michaud then dished one off to Maloney, who finished with 6 goals on the night. After a Maloney steal, junior attacker Maddy O'Donnell found the back of the net for a 2-1 lead at the 5:24 mark of the second.

Then, after a huge block by Mossakowski (8 saves) on a penalty shot, Maloney took over scoring the next 2 goals for a 6-1 lead.

"She (Maloney) played out of her mind tonight," said Pats coach Jeff Wimer. "Our girls are so disciplined and they listen. The chemistry is incredible and they don't get fazed."

No lead is safe, though, and the Huskies did everything they could to get back in it.

Freshman defender Sarah Crossett fed Wessel to cut the deficit to 6-2 with 58 ticks left in the half.

But tenacious defense resulted in a turnover and senior attacker Anne Baldino took advantage with a goal at the 45 second mark and a 7-2 halftime lead for Stevenson.

Naperville North came out fast in the third, outscoring the Pats 3-1 and trailed only 8-5 after three periods. Junior defender Meg Sparacino rebounded a shot for a goal. But Maloney was quick to answer with a goal and an 8-3 cushion for the Pats.

The Huskies then scored a pair of goals, the first on a penalty shot by sophomore attacker Anna Tarantino and the second a goal by freshman defender Claire Jansen.

Maloney then took over in the fourth with her 2 goals and, fittingly, her steal helped run the clock out in the fourth.

"Wessel is our only senior and she led us all the way this season," said Naperville North coach Andy McWhirter. "It was great she could score the first goal and help set the tone. All of the girls played their hearts out and kept pushing. We never gave up."

Earlier in the day, Stevenson downed Mother McAuley 13-7 in the semifinals. Tapas had 7 goals and Maloney 4 goals and 4 assists. Mossakowski stopped 8 shots.

Meanwhile, Naperville North earned the state title-game berth after upending New Trier 11-6 in the semifinals.

Wessel had 4 goals while Tarantino added 3 and Sarah Crossett 2.

Grace Raquel stopped 7 shots in the victory.

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