Girls Water Polo: Stevenson seeks elusive state title
Updated: May 17, 2012 7:01PM
As Stevenson’s girls water polo team searches for that elusive first IHSA state championship this weekend in the Patriots’ home pool, a glance at the state schedule has them feeling a little bit of deja vu.
Last year, the Patriots had to get past Naperville Central in the quarterfinals and St. Ignatius in the semifinals before earning a date against Fenwick in the state championship game, which they lost.
This year, it’s potentially the same path, but in different order. Stevenson opens against St. Ignatius Friday at 4:30 p.m. before a potential showdown with Naperville Central in the semifinals and perhaps another shot at the Friars in the title game.
“It’s similar, only in reverse,” Stevenson coach Jeff Wimer said of the road to a title. “I like the opportunity we have in front of us. We’ll see how the kids respond. We have quite a challenge ahead of us.”
Stevenson enters the state tournament with a 25-8 mark overall. That includes an 0-5 mark through April 24 against fellow state tournament qualifiers — the final a 7-5 loss to St. Ignatius , the Patriots’ quarterfinal opponent Friday. But since then, Stevenson has beaten Fremd, Naperville Central and Lincoln-Way Central, all of whom are in this weekend’s field. Since the St. Ignatius loss, the Patriots are 8-0.
“I don’t mind losing during the year and learning from our mistakes,” Wimer said. “You get to play different people and see who is performing and who will be good under pressure. Our team has definitely grown since the Fenwick Tournament (a month ago). We’re a completely different team than we were at the Fenwick Tournament. The kids are coming together and gelling.”
Stevenson has won state championships in girls water polo before it became an IHSA sport in 2002. Since then, however, the Patriots have had two runner-up finishes, two third-place finishes, a fourth-place nod and two other state tournament trips.
According to illpolo.com, the Patriots enter the state tournament ranked seventh in the state, and sixth amongst state qualifiers. But in addition to their recent hot streak, they have another advantage in hand. The state tournament is held at their own facility in Lincolnshire, which gives Stevenson a slight edge in familiarity and fan support.
“It’s a very nice opportunity to be at home,” Wimer said. “We have one of the nicest facilities in the whole state. I don’t think it hurts us, that’s for sure. It definitely helps us. We know our pool very well.”
The rest of Friday’s quarterfinal match-ups are as follows: Mother McAuley faces Naperville Central at 5:45 p.m., Fenwick and Fremd square off at 7 p.m. and New Trier takes on Lincoln-Way Central at 8:15 p.m.