Water polo: Stevenson boys, girls both win sectional championships
After getting off to a relatively slow start, the Stevenson boys water polo team kicked it into high gear Saturday morning at the Buffalo Grove sectional championship game against rival Libertyville.
Stevenson junior Kunal Rajadhyax (5 goals) scored from the right wing to set off a barrage of goals by the Patriots late in the first quarter as the Wildcats trailed 4-0 after one quarter, and 9-0 at halftime.
No. 4-ranked Stevenson (22-9) rolled to a 13-4 victory as the final quarter was played with a running clock. The Patriots will host Lincoln-Way East in the Elite Eight quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We kind of came out a little slow, but we got an advantage with the numbers and got our first goal," said Rajadhyax. "We're just going to take it one game at a time. We're not going to worry about the other teams, we're just going to worry about ourselves."
Goals by Jacob Whiting, Olin Kusevskis and Rajadhyax with only 1.45 seconds left in the first period staked the Pats to the 4-0 lead.
Libertyville (26-6-1) could not stop the onslaught as goals by Sully Swanson, Rajadhyax, Angelos Koutsogeorgas (penalty shot), Whiting and Jack Curtin that put the Wildcats in a 9-0 deficit.
"I'm really proud of the way we played with heart," said Libertyville coach Kara Bosman. "Stevenson is a really strong team, and we still had more steals than turnovers."
Libertyville's Eric Sparks broke up the shutout 55 seconds into the third quarter, but Koutsogeorgas got that goal right back 20 seconds later. Koutsogeorgas' third goal made the score 11-1 before Rajadhyax scored his fourth goal for a 12-1 lead.
Libertyville's Kosta Wilcox scored next on an assist by teammate Hunter Maheu with the shot clock running out. A fifth goal by Rajadhyax closed out the third quarter. Two fourth-quarter goals by Sparks accounted for the final score.
"We knew we were returning a really good team even though we lost 12 seniors to graduation," said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer. "It was more about reloading instead of rebuilding and hopefully building for something special."
Armaan Gill played the first three quarters in goal for the Patriots while Libertyville goalie Bobby Kallieris was under heavy fire from Stevenson's offense most of the game.
Coach Wimer knows it will be difficult to defend its state title from last year. But he is optimistic that his squad can make a run despite having so many new faces in the lineup.
"We had some good juniors last year and we had a bunch of kids that were coming up that were frosh-soph that in most other years would have been our varsity athletes," added Wimer. "That's just how it broke down last year and they wound up being frosh-soph athletes. And here we are toward the end season really rounding really nicely into form so we're really excited about where we're at."
Stevenson girls 20, Buffalo Grove 2:
No. 2-ranked Stevenson wasn't taking anything for chance Saturday afternoon when the Patriots faced Libertyville in the Buffalo Grove girls water polo sectional title game.
Stevenson (31-1-1) started off fast and never looked back as the Patriots built an 11-0 halftime lead before rolling to a lopsided 20-2 victory to advance to the state quarterfinals.
The Patriots will face Fenwick at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the first game of the girls state tournament. Stevenson is probably on a collision course with No. 1-ranked Naperville North for the state title next Saturday.
Senior Faith Ma opened the scoring for the Pats against the Wildcats (11-11) before two goals by teammate Elizabeth White (4 goals) gave Stevenson a 3-0 lead.
Libertyville could not solve the Patriots' explosive offense as a fast-break goal by Camila Maya, a goal by Mary Fouani, and a goal by White made the score 6-0. Then goals by Ma, Emily Headley and Maya boosted the lead to 11-0 at the intermission.
"It's a tough team (Stevenson). They're a team that makes it to state every year," said Libertyville coach Tracy Balla. "When we faced them last year we were shut out so it was nice to see us get some shots in the back of the goal."
Stevenson's Delilah Ciezak scored on a spin move for a 10-0 lead before goals by Becca Stone, Shruthi Rajkumar, Kylie Donovan, and Donovan again boosted the lead to 14-0.
The Pats kept the heat on Libertyville goalie Kaitlyn Mitchell as goals by Ma, White and Headley made the score 17-0. Libertyville's Chhaya Doshi got her own rebound and scored to end the Wildcats' scoring drought with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
"I'm very pleased with their performance. Our defense that we talk about all the time put on a defensive clinic," said Stevenson coach Jeff Wimer. "The offense was led by Elizabeth White with 4 goals, 3 assists and 7 steals, and she was really awesome."
Stone scored twice early in the fourth quarter before Libertyville's Emily Fink scored from half the length of the pool. Ciezak closed out the scoring with 4:42 left. Stevenson's Belle Cloeter had 5 assists while goalie Katie Delaney had 3 assists.
"I think the team did really well for the whole season, Jeff (coach Wimer) has been telling us that defense wins championships and I think that everyone performed how we had practiced," said White, whose team placed second to Naperville North in the state last year. "Everyone contributed this weekend whether they were a starter or coming off the bench. Everyone just stepped up and showed that they are an asset to the team, showed what they can do, and their effort paid off."