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  By Aaron Brown

  May 2013


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Dreams come true and seasons come to an end around this time of year. For the 32 teams seeking one more win in order to qualify for the 2013 state water polo tournament, 'Sectional Final Saturday' is the biggest day on the season's calendar. Here is your guide to all of the action on Saturday, May 11:





1:30pm (1) Fenwick vs (2) Lyons

As if the rubber match between Fenwick and Lyons needed any more dramatics, the news that Friars' senior Matt Farmer has returned for the sectional playoffs just elevated this game from epic to a term that hasn't been approved yet by Webster's Dictionary. Last year's sectional final contest between the two squads ended with Joe Shannon scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals and the Lions' defense holding Fenwick scoreless for the last three minutes of the game. Earlier this year, the Friars found their groove against their nemesis, beating Lyons 6-5 to win their own tournament. Two weeks ago, the Lions responded with a 9-5 victory over a Farmer-less Fenwick, continuing their winning streak that began right after their Week 2 loss to the Friars.


Questions: How effective will Farmer be after a five-week layoff? Will the Friars benefit from playing in their home pool (last year's event was played at York)? And will the winner of this game end up winning the state title like Lyons did after surviving this battle last season?




1:00pm (1) Conant vs (3) Hoffman

It doesn't get more impressive than Conant's 13-0 shutout victory over Schaumburg in the sectional semifinal game on Friday. The Cougars were already on a roll heading into the postseason and are now just one win away from a chance to win a trophy at this year's state tournament. Standing in their way is their conference rival Hoffman Estates. The bad news for Hoffman is that they have lost to Conant in both of their regular season meetings. The good news is that the same was true heading into last night's sectional semifinal contest with Fremd, but the Hawks earned a surprise 6-4 win over the sectional hosts. Can they pull off the same feat against their in-town rivals?


Questions: Can Logan Gizel and the Hoffman defense restrict the Cougars' offense like they did against Fremd and pull off a second straight upset? Will the Cougars be helped or hurt by the lack of stress they faced in their first two postseason wins?




12:30pm (1) New Trier vs (2) Loyola

I considered a copy-and-paste job from the last three years of sectional final previews between New Trier and Loyola when it came time to come up with a preview for this game. Seeds, rankings, records, and who won during the regular season don't seem to make a difference when these two rivals meet in a sectional final...the game is always won by two goals or less. Loyola has gotten the better of New Trier in recent postseason encounters and are on a roll after winning the Catholic League title last weekend. The Trevians beat the Ramblers in convincing fashion (15-6) on April 3, so Joey Ryan, Jordan Palmer, and company should also enter this duel with loads of confidence after a vastly consistent season where they only lost three times (to the top three teams).


Questions: Can the Trevians get out to an early lead to erase any doubts of a Loyola win? Or will Loyola be able to perform like they did in last weekend's upset win of Fenwick in the MCAC title game?




1:00pm (1) Homewood-Flossmoor vs (3) Lockport

Lockport edged Homewood-Flossmoor 10-9 in this same exact spot last season en route to a fourth place finish at the state tournament. In the first meeting between the two in 2013, the Vikings avenged that loss with an 8-7 victory on March 28. Four weeks later, the Porters emerged victorious with a 10-8 win that helped them earn a share of the SWSC Blue title. Taking all of that into consideration, expect a close contest between the two teams as they lay it all on the line in Saturday's sectional final in a game that seemingly any team could win.


Questions: Which team's top scorer will have the bigger game and potential carry their team to a win, H-F's Kevin Kuchta or Lockport's Dan Oldendorf? If the defenses focus on stopping both players, which role player will turn into the hero with a state tournament berth on the line at LWN?




2:00pm (1) Stevenson vs (3) Palatine

The Patriots come into their sectional final matchup with Palatine as the favorite, but a quick look back at the March 18 meeting between the two squads shows that Stevenson needed an Alex Divanyan goal late in the fourth quarter to emerge with a 12-11 victory. That means the Patriots and Pirates could be in for quite a showdown in Mundelein's new pool in the last sectional finals across the state on Saturday. Both teams are well-balanced on the offensive end and both boast talented goalkeepers capable of single-handedly winning a game for their respective teams. Both teams also suffered a few late-season losses but have seemingly found their groove in the postseason, with the Patriots avenging a regular season loss to Libertyville on Friday and the Pirates beating second-seed Lake Forest to get here.


Questions: Which team has enough left in the tank to earn one more win after tough semifinal games less than 24 hours ago? Which team will make the better in-game adjustments to get their team over the finish line and to the state tournament?




12:30pm (1) Naperville North vs (3) Hinsdale Central

The Huskies are on a roll after an impressive 18-9 victory over York on Friday night. They also have the experience of being in this situation after winning a sectional title last season. Hinsdale Central, on the other hand, will be playing in their first sectional final in team history, but what they lack in title game experience they more than make up for with a senior-laden group that should have no trouble preparing for this matchup. They will, however, have to come up with a way to stop the Naperville North offense, which scored in double-digits in both regular season meetings against the Red Devils; North won 14-10 in a Week 6 tournament and on April 16 by a 16-4 margin.


Questions: Can the Red Devils' defense handle Eric Curia, who totaled 8 goals against them in the two meetings and scored 9 times in last night's win over York? Will a quick Naperville North offense be able to deal with the physical Hinsdale Central defense if the officials decide to swallow their whistles and let the teams go at it?




12:30pm (1) Sandburg vs (2) Brother Rice

The long-awaited sectional final between Sandburg and Brother Rice is finally upon us, as the two teams missed each other in last year's sectional final when the Crusaders were upset by Stagg in the semifinal round. This time they escaped the Chargers upset bid, falling behind 3-1 but pulling out a 9-6 victory on Friday night. The Eagles had no such trouble on their side of the bracket, as they beat St Rita 15-3 to put themselves in position to try and better last year's second-place state tournament finish. Brother Rice will point to their Week 7 win over the Eagles at their own tournament, which saw the Crusaders smash the Eagles 13-3. Sandburg has on a roll since then, however, as they earned a share of the SWSC Blue title and will be looking to avoid the mistakes of their regular season loss to Brother Rice.


Questions: Can the Eagles perform better on the offensive end this time around, after hitting the post nearly a dozen times in their earlier loss to the Crusaders? If the Eagles can shut down Kevin Mayer, can the rest of the Brother Rice offense pick up the slack like they have done in a few recent games? Can Kevin Tunney and the Eagles' attack get out to an early lead to erase the fears of the double-digit loss to the Crusaders from just three weeks ago?




7:45pm (1) St Ignatius vs (2) DeLaSalle

St Ignatius used a balanced offensive attack to beat DeLaSalle 8-3 earlier in 2013 as Jesus Juarez, John Reyes, and Shane Hughes each scored 2 goals in a conference victory. Will the Wolfpack be able to do it again with a state tournament berth on the line, just one year removed from losing to Latin in their own sectional final? The Meteors, on the other hand, have never been in this position before, so only time will tell if they can handle the pressure of the situation or if their nerves will get them in trouble early on if the sectional hosts come out firing on all cylinders.


Questions: Can a young Wolfpack team deal with the pressure of being a heavy favorite knowing they are just one win away from a state tournament berth? Will DeLaSalle embrace playing the role of spoiler and perform better without letting the pressure of their first sectional final in team history get to them?





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