Boys Water Polo: Matt Veldman leads Sandburg to third-place finish
Updated: May 19, 2012 5:54PM
There were myriad reasons why Sandburg’s boys water polo team was excited to play in Saturday’s state third-place game, despite dropping a semifinal decision to Lyons earlier in the morning.
First off, the Eagles had never finished the season with a win at the state tournament. Secondly, coach Jim Caliendo was going for his 400th win as Sandburg’s coach. Add in the appeal of playing against rival Lockport, and the Eagles were ready to go.
It showed early and often as Sandburg rolled to a 5-0 halftime lead and finished off a 10-4 win.
“Four out of the last five years, we’ve come down to state and this is the first time we’ve finished the year with a win,” Sandburg senior Matt Veldman said. “That was a huge emphasis coming in. After the quarters, we just said whatever happens, let’s end with a win. Too many reasons to count why this is a big win.”
Veldman was his usual dominant self for Sandburg (29-7), scoring four goals to give him 141 for the season. Two came in the first half as the Eagles jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Kevin Tunney and Mike O’Malley added two goals apiece.
Goalie Mike Malecki, who hadn’t played in goal prior to this season, was instrumental in slowing Lockport (22-9). He had 11 saves. Lockport’s Dan Oldendorf scored twice in the loss.
Sandburg gave Lyons a late surge in the semifinals Saturday morning before losing, 12-11. The Eagles fell behind 12-8 on Kovas Zygas’ sixth goal of the game, but Veldman put one away and Tunney scored a pair late before time ran out.
“I was kind of surprised after that game, we played Lyons real tight, the kids were energized,” said Caliendo, who is now 400-148 in 19 seasons as Sandburg’s coach. “They were excited. They had so much fun playing that game. There wasn’t really any letdown. That was good to see.
Lockport lost to Loyola, 15-6, in the semifinals. Despite the pair of Saturday losses, the Porters earned their first water polo state trophy, finishing fourth.
“For Lockport, this is a huge honor,” Lockport coach Joe Lewandowski said. “I’m very proud of these guys. They worked very hard. My guys did the best they could. This is the biggest honor that we’ve ever had.”