Boys Water Polo: Lyons puts the clamps on Naperville NorthLincolnshire, IL 5/17/12 Naperville North and Lyons Township faced off in the quarterfinals of the IHSA State Boys Water Polo Tournament at Stevenson High School, Thursday. Naperville North's Aaron Katz (11) aims to take a shot while being covered Lyons Township's Danny McGuinness (6).
| Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 17, 2012 9:22PM
Often in sports, it’s the offense that gets the glory.
For Lyons’ boys water polo team, it may seem that way at times with the headlines the likes of senior Kovas Zygas and junior Joe Shannon have garnered this season.
But in order to pull off Thursday’s 8-4 state quarterfinal win over Naperville North, it was defense and goalkeeping that saved the day.
The Lions, fresh off their win over eight-time defending state champion Fenwick in the sectional finals Saturday, found themselves tied 4-4 at the half Thursday. But they put the clamps on defensively from there, holding the Huskies scoreless while Shannon and Zygas scored two goals apiece in the second half.
“That’s where our team is built, on the defensive end, and we try to create opportunities on the offensive end,” Lyons coach Doug Eichstaedt said. “We didn’t really do anything different (in the second half), we just executed a little better. I think the guys were a little more aware.”
Lyons (32-2) beat Naperville North (30-4) twice in the regular season, but the Huskies came out strong in the first half. Two goals from star Eric Curia and one from Aaron Katz staked North to a 3-2 lead with 1:34 left in the first quarter. Nolan Roberts’ goal with 2:43 left in the second tied the score at 4-4 at the half.
“We’ve seen them twice, but we’ve progressed a lot,” North coach Josh Blumthal said. “Maybe they’re too young to know any better, but they came out thinking they were going to win a championship all season and it showed in the first half.”
In the second half, Lyons was stingy defensively and junior goalie Chris Sekula (11 saves) was solid when North did get behind the defense.
“I think we came out really tight in the first half,” Sekula said. “By the second half, we realized that we played awful. It was a brand new game. I knew for myself, it all started with me because I did not play well in the first half. The second half, we started communicating better on defense and that helped us.”
The next stop for Lyons on the road to a state title is Saturday’s 9 a.m. semifinal game against Sandburg, a team the Lions beat 7-5 on April 11.
“It was a tough game,” Eichstaedt said of the first match-up. “Our shooting percentage wasn’t all that great. Our defense once again kept us in the game. It should be another battle. Sandburg has been a perennial power coming to state, so they’re going to be ready to go.”