Boys water polo: Stevenson completes the task with state title
Stevenson senior Drew Wangard has fond memories of the program's last boys state water polo championship.
But Wangard, due to his grade level, didn't get a chance to compete in Stevenson's state-title victory in 2017.
"I remember in eighth grade watching from the stands when our 2017 team won the state championship and wanting to be a part of that unbelievable experience," Wangard said. "I had just started playing water polo at the time, and I was dropped off (at state). It was a great experience. I remember that moment extremely clearly. I wanted to be able to hold the trophy by myself one day."
Four years later, after missing a chance to compete in his junior season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wangard experienced the thrill of winning a championship as an athlete.
Wangard and Dimitriy Kobets were an unstoppable duo, combining for 8 goals in a 15-8 victory over Lyons in the state championship game Saturday night at Fenwick's Dan O'Brien pool.
Wangard scored 4 goals and 3 assists to guide the Patriots (30-0) to an undefeated record and the program's second state championship.
"It's an unbelievable experience for me to have this myself," Wangard said. "I've been waiting for years for this moment. It feels great. I made some lifelong friends and playing water polo was a great experience. We play such a distinct style of water polo, where we press very hard and we counterattack. We didn't deviate from that formula."
Lyons (20-5) endured a rocky season but nearly mounted a late comeback to win its third state title. The Lions cut the deficit to 10-7 following Michael Schoneman's goal with 3:12 left in the third quarter. The Patriots answered with 3 consecutive goals to put the game out of reach. Lian Malas paced the Lions with 4 goals and 3 assists and Schoneman chipped in with 3 goals.
"These guys have played so well all year, from navigating this season and the excitement being able to play," Lyons coach Doug Eichstaedt said, while holding tightly the runner-up trophy. "We had a lot of great leaders on this team. Everyone worked together and pulled in the same direction. We had plenty of opportunities and just couldn't finish some of those plays.
"The journey here and the way these guys played all year, I'm so proud of their effort. They're a great team. We didn't play as well defensively with some of our assignments and they took advantage. We couldn't get it going early enough. This is a great team."
The Patriots immediately seized control of the game, building a 3-0 lead following the first quarter that stretched to 10-4 by halftime. Kobets, the leading scorer for the Patriots, equaled Wangard's effort with 4 goals to go with 4 assists. The Loyola Marymount recruit said the state title is among the "top three" of his best career moments.
"It feels great to finally achieve something we've been working on for my whole high school career," he said. "It finally feels great to do it today. We left it all out on the line. We prepared for this from the beginning of the season. We wanted to leave no doubt."
Seconds after the final buzzer, Stevenson coach Sean Wimer immediately jumped into the pool to celebrate his second state championship,
"This feels amazing," Wimer said. "These boys earned it. We've had this motivation for a couple of years. We were really good last year, maybe even better last year. We were really good this year, so this is a culmination of their hard work. I'm so proud of this senior class especially because they were warriors. These guys are good and the real deal."