Girls water polo: Naperville North edges Stevenson in battle of state's top teams
The top two ranked girls water polo teams in the state met Wednesday afternoon, and the big showdown between No. 1-ranked host Stevenson and No. 2 Naperville North definitely lived up to the hype in Lincolnshire.
This ever-growing rivalry saw the visiting Huskies take a 5-1 lead into halftime only to see the four-time state champion Patriots totally steal the momentum back to force a 5-5 tie going into the fourth quarter.
But defending IHSA state champion Naperville North (23-1-1) was not to be denied as the Huskies outscored Stevenson (25-1-1) 2-0 in the final quarter to come away with an exciting 7-5 nonconference victory in what might have been a preview of the 2022 state title game on May 21.
Junior Sophie Raquel gave the Huskies the lead for keeps at 6-5 as she lofted her third goal of the game over Stevenson goalie Katie Delaney (11 saves) and into the left corner of the net with 4:41 to play.
Stevenson's Faith Ma lost control of the ball with 3:25 remaining right in front of Naperville North goalie Ella Selman (13 saves) to prevent a potential tie game. Fifty-seven seconds later, sophomore Kelsey Wessel scored her third goal of the game also into the left corner of the net to account for the 7-5 final score.
"We had a lot of really good opportunities just like Naperville North and we didn't capitalize on them," said Stevenson coach Jeff Wimer, whose team beat the Huskies for the 2019 state crown before losing them for the 2021 state title. "We've got to take each step at a time, and we're hoping we'll get a chance for a rematch with them."
The Huskies took a quick 1-0 lead on a goal by senior Claire Jansen from close range before Stevenson junior Belle Cloeter floated a long shot from the right point into the net to tie the score with just one second left in the first quarter.
Naperville North completely dominated the second quarter as goals by Raquel, Wessel, Wessel again, and Raquel put the Patriots in a substantial 5-1 halftime deficit.
The Pats stormed back quickly in the third quarter as goals by Elizabeth White, Cloeter, Mary Fouani, and junior Becca Stone forced a 5-5 deadlock with 1:49 left in the period.
"The girls on defense just did an outstanding job and we only had two or three ejections to their six or seven," said Naperville North coach Andy McWhirter, whose team rolled past Stevenson 15-6 for the state title last year. "The girls had great endurance, great patience to slow things down, and we are a deep team with a lot of speed."
The Pats offense was really hurt when they lost White to her third ejection with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Stone's shot hit the crossbar with 2:05 to play.
"In the fourth quarter both teams fought their best game, but we stepped it up a little more," said Raquel, who is hoping for back-to-back state titles. "For us it's just communicating, working well together, slowing down, taking our time and not rushing it."
Stevenson and Naperville North's boys teams played following the girls with the Huskies also winning the boys game.