Girls water polo: Naperville North headed to state championship game
Naperville North's quest to win its first girls state water polo championship is riding a simple formula.
The Huskies have relied on the method to show their dominance in matches throughout an unbeaten season: Start fast, finish slow.
Playing in their biggest game of the season on Friday afternoon, the Huskies rode that same formula to a memorable 12-6 victory over New Trier in the state semifinals at Fenwick High School.
The Huskies (28-0) advanced to the state championship for the second time in their program history, where they will play Stevenson on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Huskies scored 5 goals in the opening quarter to build momentum to defeat the Trevians (25-5) for the third time this season.
Naperville North senior Anna Tarantino, a four-year varsity player set to play at Loyola Marymount, scored a game-high 4 goals to spark the Huskies.
"Our main goal for every single game is to start fast, and then toward the end you can save your energy and start holding the ball," Tarantino said. "When you start off quick, it gives you what the rest of the game will look like in terms of energy and a good start. We want to have another good start tomorrow."
Naperville North's Sarah Crossett scored 3 goals, but she notched back-to-back goals in the third quarter in a span of less than two minutes to extend the lead to 10-4.
"We definitely all had to step up and everyone is coming in with a new mindset this year, just knowing we were robbed of last season and everyone stepped up and we were ready to go," Crossett said. "Throughout the game, we focused on defense ... We had to get defensive stops, and that was our priority in the second half."
The Trevians made things interesting late in the third quarter, when Emma Wendt and Carmen Connor-Crewe each scored goals to slice the deficit to 11-6. But the Huskies tightened their defense and slowed down the game in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"This is a strong family of girls the entire season," said Huskies coach Andy McWhirter. "They were hungry for it last year, but unfortunately we did not have a chance. They have double hunger now. The girls are so tight and deep in what they want to accomplish. We got the energy going right away and were quick on the ball from the start and that momentum built for the girls. We're looking forward to Saturday night."
Bridget McKenna paced the Trevians with 2 goals. The Trevians scored 4 goals in the third quarter but couldn't overcome scoreless efforts in the second and fourth quarters.
"We had a game plan to help out on (Tarantino), the best player in the state, but we kind of lost focus and were guarding players further away from the goal and she snuck in a couple of goals," said New Trier coach Matt Wendt. "They're a great team. I loved our effort level and we kept working hard. We're going to come back strong and compete in the third-place game.
"(Naperville North's) defense was so stingy and capitalized on our turnovers. They're fast and also have a lot of experience than we have. I have a totally young team. We're going to be good in a year or two."