The Fenwick boys' water polo team was able to pull off their second victory in a row against powerhouse Brother Rice on Saturday, edging the Crusaders 8-6 in the title game of the Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference tournament in Oak Park. After beating Mt. Carmel 24-7 and St. Patrick 15-4 earlier in the tournament, the Friars' quick offense and teamwork kept them in control against the Crusaders.
Fenwick started the game off quickly, getting first possession of the ball and moving towards the Brother Rice goal. Oscar Calderon took the Friars' first shot of the game 19 seconds into the opening quarter, and scored.
"He just took a backhand shot out of the hole and scored a goal," said Fenwick head coach Dave Perry.
Brother Rice evened the score a minute later and then jumped ahead 2-1 with another goal 3:30 into the first quarter. The Friars, however, quickly regrouped. They moved the ball around with ease until Luke Baldwin passed to Paul Grusecki, who was right in front of the Brother Rice net. Grusecki redirected Baldwin's pass into the net for a goal, tying the game at 2-2. Just over two minutes into the second quarter, Grusecki again scored off of a pass from Baldwin.
After a barrage of shots a minute later in which the Fenwick defense proved strong, the Friars again got control of the ball in Brother Rice's territory. Mark Melnyk scored with 3:43 left in the first half with a shot that skipped off of the water and over the Brother Rice goalie, to give the Friars a 4-2 lead.
Brother Rice quickly retaliated with a goal of its own just 15 seconds later, but Fenwick was able to score twice more before the end of the half. With three minutes to go, Jack Ryden passed to Calderon, who got his second goal of the game on a shot that went into the lower left corner of the net. John Barrett scored 20 seconds later by stealing the ball from the Brother Rice goalie and pushing it into the net. The Friars led 6-3 at halftime.
In the second half, things initially moved much more slowly than they did in the first. Strong defense meant that there was only one goal for each team in the third quarter. Brother Rice scored 2:25 into the quarter after getting the ball deep in the Fenwick zone. Fenwick came back two minutes later when Barrett got his second goal of the game on a shot from just outside the Brother Rice net.
Thirty seconds into the fourth quarter, Fenwick struck again. Calderon had the assist this time, passing the ball to Baldwin, who bounced the ball off of the water and into the net to put the Friars up 8-4.
Brother Rice pressed hard to catch the Friars in the final six minutes, and scored twice. They were, however, unable to make up the deficit that Fenwick had built, and the Friars prevailed in the end.
"I thought that we played one of the best games of the season against Rice," Barrett said. "We played as a team."
In addition to teamwork, the Friars' defense also was key to their victory.
"We definitely played the best overall team defense that we've played all year," said Perry. "We just did a great job of helping each other out. Our offense also just clicked the best its clicked against Brother Rice that it has all year."
Going into sectionals this week, the Friars will likely face either St. Patrick or OPRF in the finals on Saturday (2:15 p.m.) at Fenwick.
"Obviously, we want to go to State and win," said Barrett. "We have to get past St. Pat's or Oak Park, whomever we face."