Boys water polo: Libertyville perfect at Conant invite

As day two of Conant's boys water polo invite beckoned Saturday morning, Cougars coach Dave Jonen was faced with a dilemma of sorts due to day one participant Chicago DeLaSalle withdrawing from the event after losing both of its contests on Thursday.

That left only seven teams in the tournament and Lincoln-Way Central staring at an open date which wiped out the Knights' early Saturday afternoon match.

Which also left Jonen in his tournament director capacity seeking a solution that got LWC to have a fourth game in the tournament.

"We just wanted to make sure that everybody got four games, so we slid in (for DeLaSalle) giving us our fourth game and then we just dropped out of the (championship) bracket so that the other six teams got their fourth game."

Which ended up working for all seven squads and most of all for Libertyville (21-3) which went a perfect 4-for-4 as it captured top honors for a second straight spring beating Conant 11-6, Maine West 17-4, Niles West 19-10 and a second 11-6 decision in the finals vs. Neuqua Valley in a battle of schools who each call their athletic teams Wildcats.

"We knew it was going to be a long day and so early on in the day we played everyone which is great that we have a big enough team to do that," Libertyville coach Kara Bosman said. "We talked about conserving energy a little bit, but we knew this (the championship game) was the game we wanted to be in and so that was a little bit of an energy boost."

Libertyville senior Nolan McDonald echoed his coach's assessment.

"We're feeling great. We just came in with a lot of confidence. (We) really put a highlight on our defense. Getting back, calling our switches (defensive formations). It just allowed us to have a really strong offensive game."

McDonald totaled 18 goals throughout the day in leading the Wildcats attack including a pair of six goal outbursts. The second came in the title game which placed him on top of the program's all-time goal scorers in addition to surpassing his 2022 campaign total.

"Water polo is a really tough sport to train and get reps in because you don't have access to a pool," McDonald said. "So emphasizing on shooting and working on accuracy is a priority."

Neuqua (17-10-1), which entered Saturday with wins over both Buffalo Grove and DeLaSalle on Thursday before adding a 21-6 win over third-place finisher LWC Saturday morning, received plaudits from their coach Chad Ganden of his team's 8-win improvement from last season.

"We're playing a lot better water polo," Ganden said. "The championship game wasn't our best game. In my mind we've played better but you have to take the good with the bad. They've been a scrappy group and they don't give up and they're going to keep fighting all the way to the end."

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