Boys Water Polo: Sandburg rallies to edge Stagg in sectional finalNick Lathrop, of Sandburg, has plaque duty after their win over Stagg for the Stagg Boys Water Polo Sectional Championship, Saturday, May 12th, 2012 in Palos Hills, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 12, 2012 5:58PM
On top of a trip to state, Sandburg’s Kevin Tunney said his team’s pride was on the line Saturday.
“We knew this was against Stagg, our biggest rival,” he said. “If we lost, the smack talk from them that we’d have to hear would be out of control.”
It’s the Eagles who are free to brag after rallying from a 9-7 deficit with 4:26 left for an 11-10 win in the Stagg Sectional championship match.
Matt Veldman had three goals while Tunney, Mike O’Malley, Stephen Zieler and Anthony Bonnar all scored twice for the Eagles (27-6), who will meet Fremd in a state quarterfinal at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Lincolnshire.
Ryan Petersen (four goals) and Juan Valdez (three goals) paced Stagg (23-10).
Four players scored for the Eagles during the decisive 4-0 run. Veldman started it and O’Malley scored on a power play to tie the game at 9-9 with 3:58 left.
Zieler cashed in after Veldman’s steal, scoring on a skip shot in transition for the go-ahead score. Tunney made it 11-9 with 1:38 to go.
“(Zieler) was the catalyst,” Sandburg coach Jim Caliendo said. “I called a timeout (with the match tied 9-9) and he did all the talking. Then he came out and scored.”
Valdez cut the deficit to one with 29 seconds left, but the Eagles ran the clock out to clinch their second straight trip to state.
Veldman’s defense on Valdez was huge late, as the senior had a pair of key steals.
“This whole season, it seemed like once we got down, we weren’t able to come back,” Veldman said. “To be able to pull off a comeback now, it feels great.”
The match was tight throughout, with Sandburg holding a 6-5 halftime lead before the Chargers rallied for a 9-7 edge.
Jihad Ramadan had 11 steals for Stagg.
“Our kids played their hearts out and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Stagg coach Wes Gonzalez said. “(The Eagles) just had things go their way down the stretch.”