Fenwick water polo fans left Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire with a bittersweet feeling Saturday night.
Both the boys and girls teams advanced to the state championship match in convincing fashion, only to fall one victory shy of their annual goal. Collectively, the Friars have won 30 state championships (20 boys, 10 girls).
The boys team certainly felt confident entering its matchup against Naperville Central in the state final. However, the Friars’ hopes of winning state were all but doused early as the Redhawks scored the first four goals of the match en route to a 13-5 victory.
“Naperville Central is very physical and fast,” Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. “They pass and shoot the ball well and have great team chemistry. They’re definitely deserving of being state champs.
“We thought if we put up a good effort, we could give them a good game,” Perry added. “But they were able to do what they wanted to do. Their defense is so good and their goalie played awesome.”
Cam Dougherty’s goal gave Naperville Central (34-1) a 1-0 lead about 90 seconds into the game. Then Bender Russo scored a goal and Brad Sanford added two more goals to increase the Redhawks’ lead to 4-0 after the first quarter.
Fenwick didn’t score until 49 seconds into the second quarter when Payton Comstock found the back of the net. The Friars’ Ivan Soto added another goal, which came after a goal by Naperville Central’s Dominic May.
At the half, the Friars trailed 5-2.
The Redhawks dominated the third quarter as well, outscoring Fenwick 4-1 to take a commanding 9-3 entering the fourth quarter. Alex Figus scored the Friars’ lone goal in the third.
The Redhawks tacked on three more goals to build their insurmountable lead to 12-3 in the fourth quarter. Friars’ Nate Fisher and Ramses Flores each scored a goal in the fourth.
Sanford finished with a game-high four goals, while Russo scored three goals for Naperville Central.
“It was pretty rough,” Soto said after the loss. “But we tried our best and that’s all that matters.”
Perry felt that the play with the “man-up” advantage (equivalent of a power play in ice hockey) between the two teams was critical in terms of the outcome.
“We went 1-for-7 and Naperville Central went 7-for-9 on the man up,” Perry said. “If you’re wondering how the game went, I think that’s probably the telling stat.”
Perry also cited the Friars’ mental mistakes and subpar passing as problematic during the match. Naperville Central goalie Jonah Klein-Collins was another key deterrent for Fenwick. He finished with 12 saves.
In the semifinals, Fenwick defeated Lyons Township 5-4 in overtime. Dan Lynch scored the game-winning goal for the Friars, who rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits. The Lions won the previous three meetings between the area rivals.
“We played a complete game and never gave up on ourselves,” Perry said. “We went down 2-0 at halftime and then 4-2 late in the game, but we just kept coming back.”
After the highs (win over LTHS) and lows (loss against Naperville Central) at the state tourney, Perry reflected about the season.
“This season was probably one of our oddest seasons in a while,” he said. “The state tournament was the first time all season that we had the entire varsity lineup available. We played 33 games this year missing at least one varsity contributor.
“We had our ups and downs this season. You never want to lose your last game, but to be able to play in the state championship game on a Saturday night is rewarding.”
Soto, who will play college water polo at California Lutheran, has fond memories about his final campaign with the Friars.
“It was great,” he said. “We got off to a rough start as a lot of us were sick. But we all came together, and we’re happy with how things turned out. I just wish we came out with a win (against Naperville Central). Fenwick is a great program and I was proud to be a part of it.”
Along with Soto, the Friars will lose starting goalie Alejandro Perez, Ben Lulich and James Heneghan to graduation. On the bright side, Fenwick returns team captains Comstock, Lynch and Flores, plus Figus, Fisher and promising sophomore Dan Badja.
“They’re going to be knocking on my door (next week) and asking me, ‘Coach, can we get back in the water?’ I’ll tell them, ‘No, we’re taking a little break,'” Perry said. “We’re looking forward to next season and the guys are going to be ready to go.”
Fenwick girls sunk by Stevenson
After the boys lost 13-5 to Naperville Central in the state title match, the Friars hoped to avoid the same fate in the girls final. Unfortunately, host Stevenson simply had too much offensive firepower for the underdog Friars (24-7).
Junior Paulina Correa’s goal just 15 seconds into the contest gave Fenwick fans cause for optimism. The goal would represent the Friars’ lone lead as the Patriots responded with three unanswered goals en route to an impressive 12-7 win.
After Correa’s goal, Stevenson (35-1) countered with a goal by Kalista Tapas and two by Lauren Maloney, who finished with a match-high six goals.
Kassy Rodriguez cut the Friars’ deficit to one with a goal, but Stevenson’s Amelia Eastman responded with one of her own to power the Patriots to a 4-2 lead after one quarter.
Stevenson’s Claire Haas, an All-American heading to USC in the fall, asserted herself in the second quarter. She scored two goals, including a penalty shot, and Maloney added another goal to give the Patriots a 7-3 halftime lead. Correa tallied the only goal for the Friars in the second quarter.
The Friars opened the second half well, with goals from Correa and Harper Daniels within the first minute to cut their deficit to 7-5.
Stevenson regained control immediately, scoring three of the next four goals to take a 10-6 advantage after three quarters.
Rodriguez accounted for the Friars’ other goal in the third, which was sandwiched between two more Maloney goals and another by Haas, who finished with three goals and three assists.
After Maloney scored again to begin the fourth quarter, Stevenson goalie Anna Mossakowski came up big for the Patriots as she stopped a penalty shot by Correa. The play proved to be a backbreaker for Fenwick as Eleanor Michaud tallied another Patriots’ goal not long afterwards to put the game away.
Daniels managed to get her second goal later to account for the final scoring.
In the semifinals, the Friars defeated Loyola Academy 17-9.
After a 2-2 tie at the end of the first quarter, Fenwick outscored the Ramblers 14-4 during the middle quarters to essentially secure the victory.
Kassy Rodriguez (6 goals), Millie Sheean (5 goals) and Correa (4 goals) led a balanced attack. Molly McGuire chipped in two goals and an assist, while Daniels dished out three assists. Fenwick goalie Cece Jenkins recorded five saves.
Lauren Voss led Loyola with three goals, while Nicole Kielba and Sarah Pinkerton scored twice.
In the quarterfinals, Fenwick cruised past Lane with an 18-5 win. The Friars overwhelmed Lane with nine goals in the first quarter. Sheean led the way with six goals. Kassy Rodriguez and Correa both scored three times. McGuire added two goals and two assists as eight players scored for Fenwick.
Looking ahead, Fenwick loses five key senior defenders in Sheean, McGuire, Jackie Doyle, Kate Mackie and Isabel Smith to graduation. Plenty of talented players return next year, notably Correa (team-high 79 goals), Daniels, Kassy Rodriguez and starting goalie Sam Rodriguez.
Given the program’s winning tradition (10 state titles), promising players on the lower levels, and the leadership of veteran coach Jack Wagner, Fenwick should be a state title contender next season.