Boys Water Polo: Neuqua Valley starts strong, hold on against St Charles East
Updated: May 9, 2012 9:21PM
Wednesday’s Metea Valley Sectional quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Neuqua Valley and No. 5 seed St. Charles East was billed by many boys water polo observers as one of the best quarterfinal matches in the state coming into the postseason.
The match lived up to its advance billing.
Neuqua raced out to a 7-2 lead, only to see St. Charles East cut the lead to 9-8 with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter. That was the last time the Saints would score, however, and the Wildcats held on for an exciting, 10-8 win. That sets up a 5:15 p.m. Friday showdown in the semifinals against top-seeded Naperville North, a team Neuqua has lost to twice this season.
“Everybody was talking about this game,” Neuqua coach Adam Hoffer said. “It lived up to the hype. I would have preferred to have it a little different. We played solid defense. I think in the end, that’s what won it for us.”
Early on, it looked like Neuqua (16-13-1) would cruise to the win. Three goals from Kevin Patterson, two from Drew Dvorchak and one each from Will Russell and Robert Vechiola staked the Wildcats to a 7-2 lead with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
“We have a lot of speed,” Hoffer said. “I know they do, too, but we drive so much that it’s pretty hard to stop us, especially when we have as many varsity swim athletes as we do. I have two 500 freestyle swimmers. Stamina is the biggest thing in this game, and we had it.”
But St. Charles East (19-8-2) was just getting started. The Saints closed out the third quarter on a 5-1 run to cut the lead to 8-7. Stephen Mason scored three of his five goals in the match during that run.
“A few times this year we’ve been down and came back, so I knew we’d be able to come back,” St. Charles East coach Sean Markowic said. “We had our opportunities. Sometimes the ball bounces in, sometimes it tips and bounces out. That’s kind of what happened today. I thought we had just as many opportunities as they did, maybe a couple more.”
When the Saints cut the score to 9-8 with 5:18 left in the game, the Wildcats turned the screws defensively and held them scoreless the rest of the way.
“When they started getting close, we got pumped up,” Patterson said. “We knew we had to stop them. They would have had more energy and made a run for it if we gave up any more. We put our best players on their best players. We had solid defense all year and we put it to use today.”
Now the Wildcats get a third crack at top-seeded Naperville North in the semifinals Friday.
“I’m really looking forward to this game,” Hoffer said. “They’re one of the best teams in the state, but that was during the season. Rankings don’t matter anymore. It really comes down to which team looks the best that day. Naperville North came back last year and beat us. I’d like to have the opportunity to upset them this year. We’ll see. It’s going to be hard. They have a phenomenal team.”