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  MAY 16, 2012

  State Tournament Cheat Sheet: Volume III

   BY AARON BROWN

 

   <<<  ILLPOLO.COM

 

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VOLUME III

The following cheat sheet provides some of the most interesting details pertaining to the upcoming state tournament, which begins on Thursday, May 17 and concludes on Saturday, May 19.


Let The Games Begin!

My son Hunter wanted to say good luck to the teams participating in the state tournament this weekend. He also says he is tired of waiting. I believe his exact thoughts were "Let the games begin!"

 


Trivia Question

As the site nears a record-shattering one milllion page views for the 2012 season, I figure this is a good time to ask a trivia question. The winner (if there is one) will receive a limited edition Illpolo.com Baller T-shirt (only five will be made). Here is the question:

 

Who was the first person to ever view the Illpolo.com web site?

 

Hint: It could be a former player, current/former coach, referee, or anyone involved with IL High School water polo that was checking the site in 2003. It's not a trick question and the correct answer is not me.

 

Submit answers or guesses via e-mail, text, Facebook or Twitter. One guess per person. Answer will be announced later this week.


Girls' State Quarterfinal Analysis

With the girls' state quarterfinal games just two days away, it's about that time to begin taking a closer look at the four matchups. We'll forget about the storylines here, as eight of the top nine teams in the state have qualified, and many are familiar opponents with a long history:

 

ST IGNATIUS vs STEVENSON

It's especially difficult to gauge the opening quarterfinal matchup between St Ignatius and Stevenson by looking at recent results. In 2011, the teams split the season series, with the Wolfpack getting a key win late in the regular season, only to see the Patriots win last year's state semifinal game 9-7. The team's played just once this year, with SICP coming out on top 7-5 behind two goals each from Karen Jaurez and Stephanie Fernandez on April 24. But we can probably throw that result out the window and figure that anything can happen at 4:30pm on Friday afternoon.

 

One factor to consider: the Patriots have the comfort of playing in their home pool in the early game. On the flip side, Ignatius has to make the journey to Lincolnshire from Chicago without having much time to settle in before hitting the water. The teams will have the same amount of warm-up time before game time, but it's tough to discount the home-pool advantage.

 

Experience isn't much of a factor here. Both teams have been playing at the state tournament since the IHSA sanctioned water polo as a sport. Stevenson head coach Jeff Wimer has won three state titles with Mundelein and has had Stevenson on the brink of a state title several times (five second-place finishes). Meanwhile, St Ignatius head coach Mike Cashman has led the Wolfpack to three second-place finishes and a third-place run in 2011 in just six years as a head coach.

 

Both teams are well-disciplined and well-balanced at both ends of the pool. The Patriots boast the strong offensive duo of Cami Haas and Erin McCook and one of the top keepers in the state in Lisa Michalowski.

 

The Wolfpack will look to Becky Insalaco, Stephanie Fernandez, and Tammy Stelnicki on both ends of the pool, with goalie Katie Murphy providing a wall at the back of the defense.

 

MOTHER MCAULEY vs NAPERVILLE CENTRAL

Much has been made of Naperville Central's first-round exit in last year's state tournament when many expected them to challenge for a title. It might be wise for the Redhawks to chalk that loss up as a fluke, since this same team of seniors placed second in 2009 and third in 2010. Still, Central will have to avoid the pressure of another first-round game against a difficult Mother McAuley defense.

 

The Mighty Macs have qualified for state for the second time in three years under head coach Vanessa Carroll. In her first showing, the team placed fourth, so McAuley will be looking to improve upon that mark if they can get a first-round win over the Redhawks.

 

Recent history favors Naperville Central. The Redhawks won 12-3 on April 23 and also beat the Mighty Macs in the only meeting between the two in 2011. The last time the teams met at state was 2008, where McAuley eliminated the Redhawks.

 

McAuley's balanced offense will look to Amy Kopale, Clare Bryar, Kristen Kleist, and Vicky Arciniega to do some damage against a stingy Redhawks' defense. Central will look to Abbey Kerth to provide the offensive spark necessary to outgun the Mighty Macs, but fellow starters Lauren Gunn and Madison Nervig have helped bolster the team's scoring when defenses focus on stopping Kerth and defender and highly-capable goalscorer Emily Sejna. The battle between the pipes could also play a significant role, as McAuley goaltender Sarah Abbott emerged during the 2011 postseason and has continued her effective play this season, while Central's Julia Campbell is a difference-maker on the opposite end of the pool.

 

The early stages of this game will be important. If McAuley gets an early lead, the pressure could mount for a Central team looking to forget about last year's game (which was played at the same time). If the Redhawks have their way, this game will be similar to this past April, when they took early control and earned a comfortable 12-3 win. Pay attention early!

 

FENWICK vs FREMD

The Friars are lucky there is a break between sectionals and state. After coming off a dramatic and epic sudden-death overtime win over #1 Lyons, the defending champs probably needed the six days off from game play. That said, they have to avoid a letdown when they take on Fremd at 5:30pm on Friday, as the Vikings have been chomping at the bit to get a chance to advance to the second day of the event after losing by one goal in the previous two seasons.

 

Recent history is definitely on Fenwick's side, as they beat Fremd 10-3 at the Naperville Central Tourney on March 17 and earned a more recent 13-9 victory over the Vikings on May 1. Still, Fremd has been in this spot before as the underdog, and their quarterfinal win over Lyons in 2009 shows that they can be a dangerous team to play in the opening round.

 

The coaching matchup could prove to be an interesting one. Fremd's Ray Roth showed his immediate impact by helping the Vikings avoid missing a beat in his first year at the helm. Can his fresh energy help the team get past Fenwick for the first time this year in three tries? He'll have to outsmart Fenwick head coach Jack Wagner, who has led the Friars to six state titles and always has his team prepared for the pressure of a single-elimination state tournament game.

 

Fenwick relies on goalie Mackenzie Bonk to stabilize the defense, while Cara Borkovec, Colleen Barron, Haley Wickham, and Maureen Barron will be among the players looking to make a big impact on the scoresheet in this contest.

 

The Vikings boast a lineup of versatile starters and scorers, with Lauren Zambelli, Sam del Prado, and Sam Matuszewski likely to play a key role if Fremd is to grab a first-round victory. Julie Conrath spearheads the defensive effort in goal after a record-breaking year for the senior.

 

LINCOLN-WAY CENTRAL vs NEW TRIER

Here is the true wild card of the opening round games. To my knowledge, LWC and New Trier have never met, while there is definitely no scores to reflect upon from at least the past two seasons. That means it's anyone's guess as to how things will play out in the late game on Friday night.

 

First of all, more than 60 miles separates the cities of New Lenox and Winnetka, which is one explanation to why they have never played during the regular season. Since the Knights are appearing at the state tournament for the first time, the two teams have never crossed paths in the season's final event. New Trier is also the only other state-qualifying team that did not appear in 2011. Thus, there are many more question marks surrounding this one than answers.

 

For LWC, things revolve around star junior Danijela Jackovich. However, part of the reason that Central has improved so much this season could also be attributed to the emergence of several other players during the 2012 campaign. Ashley Dhooghe, Beth Senese, Brittany Knowlton, Liz Klock, Megan McClean, and Michelle Dundek have all made key contributions this season, while goalie Caroline Foglton has made a tremendous impact all season, including a big-game performance in the sectional final win over H-F.

 

The Trevians also boast a lineup that has a strong cast of versatile players, making it especially difficult to pinpoint who to stop on the offensive end. Alexana Astor, Erika Nothnagel, Isabelle Baneaux, Jocelyn Kupets, Kelsey Willian, and Lindsey Siegel have all made major scoring contributions for head coach Matt Wendt's squad, while Nothnagel is the team's leader on the defensive end. The emergence of goalkeeper Hannah Caywood has also been significant, as she has helped anchor a team that can be tough to score on in her first year in the starting lineup.

 

Three questions remain: (1) Can the Trevians stop Jackovich on the offensive end? (2) Will Central be able to figure out how to stop a team with so many scorers from exploiting a weakness? (3) How will both teams respond to the pressure of playing on the big stage for the first time for most of the players? The answers to these questions will probably help determine who advances to Saturday's semifinal round.


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