Girls Water Polo: Naperville Central beats Lyons in battle of unbeatens
Updated: April 14, 2012 9:11PM
Naperville Central girls water polo coach Jeff Plackett has the game ball from all of his sectional championships on display in his home.
After the Redhawks solidified their standing as the state’s No. 1 team by winning the 12th annual Mike Murphy Tournament at Fenwick Saturday, Plackett was handed another game ball.
“That is my one perk as coach, when you win a sectional, you get to keep the game ball,” Plackett said. “I have my six game balls lined up on a ledge. Right now, this may mean more to me. This is the premier tournament mid-season in the state, so to come out and have a good showing this weekend is great.”
Central won the tournament in its first-ever appearance after a 14-11 win over previously unbeaten Lyons in the finals. The Redhawks also racked up wins over Mundelein, New Trier and Stevenson while improving their record to 19-0.
Nine of the top 10 teams in the state were in the field, giving it a state tournament feel a month out from the state series, and Central thrived. A 12-7 win in the morning over New Trier put the Redhawks in the finals against Lyons (17-1), who was riding the high of knocking off defending state champion Fenwick Friday.
The two teams exchanged goals early before the Redhawks took over with five straight goals to make it 7-2 early in the second quarter. But Lyons hung around. Carrie Nacht’s second goal of the game started a three-goal Lions run that cut the lead to 7-5 with 5:20 left in the second quarter.
But Central was relentless, ending the half by outscoring Lyons 4-1 to take an 11-6 lead into the break. The Redhawks ended the half in dramatic fashion, as goalie Julie Campbell scored a rare goal from the opposite end of the pool at the buzzer.
“I was more surprised than anything,” Campbell said. “I mean, I’ll go for it during a game if I have the chance. Usually it’s hit or miss, but I think there was a little bit of luck in there.”
Lyons held Central scoreless in the third and tried to come back. Sam Patel’s goal to start the fourth cut the lead to 11-8. But three different times in the fourth, Lyons scored a goal only to see Central senior star Abbey Kerth answer in 10 seconds or less to keep Central in command. Kerth, Central’s all-time leading scorer, scored seven goals in the win.
“I don’t know what it is, but we struggled a little bit on offense in the third quarter,” Plackett said. “To have her answer those goals in the fourth, that was huge.”
The Lions experienced a feeling they haven’t felt all season, a loss.
“It’s important to experience adversity so you don’t get spoiled,” Lyons coach Derrick Brace said. “You work harder than ever. This is not adversity like, ‘Oh, they scored first.’ This is adversity like, ‘We lost a game.’ It’s what happens next that is most important.”