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  MAY 18, 2012

  State Tournament Digest: Volume I

   BY AARON BROWN

 

   <<<  ILLPOLO.COM

 

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VOLUME I

The following digest provides the latest updates from the 2012 state tournament and looks ahead to the remaining water polo action at Stevenson High School this weekend.


Trivia

The winner of Tuesday's trivia question was Shawn Golden of Downers Grove, IL. He was the first person to correctly answer the following question:

 

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

 

Answer: Kyle Perry (Fenwick). Back in 2003 when I put together a simple web site meant to list teams, schedules, and contact information, the first "hit" that I got on Statcounter (which is used to track visitor info) came from an Oxford, Ohio location; this was later revealed to be the site of Miami University. An e-mail I received later that day providing accurate e-mail information came from Perry, who I believe was the player-coach for the school's club water polo team at the time. Ten years later, he's now sends updates as the head coach of Fenwick High School's boys' team.

 

Shawn gets a "Certified Baller" t-shirt delivered in his size (one of only five made; they may be available for purchase next season, assuming the web site is still around).


Boys' State Quarterfinals - Focal Points

The following things/players stood out as focal points in Thursday night's quarterfinal games:

 

SANDBURG 11 FREMD 5

Focal Point: Experience

The Vikings seemed to come into this one with that "nothing-to-lose" attitude we talked about earlier this the week. If that was the case, it worked. Fremd held a 3-0 lead over Sandburg in the early stages of the second quarter. A team lacking experience might have folded under the kind of pressure the Eagles were facing. Instead, battle-tested Sandburg quickly turned things around, made a few adjustments, and went on a 7-0 run to take control of the game en route to an 11-5 win. They need the momentum from this win, their experience, and then some when they go up against Lyons on Saturday morning.

 

LYONS 8 NAPERVILLE NORTH 4

Focal Point: Danny McGuinness

Lyons Township might be the most perfectly-balanced team one could draw up. Plenty of options on the offensive end led by Joe Shannon and Peter Dore. An all-around talent on both ends of the pool like Kovas Zygas. An exceptional goalkeeper in Chris Sekula. Players who can fill a variety of roles like Josh Hirt and Sean McMahon. And yet one of the most unsung players in the state and quite possibly the most important player in the pool last night for the Lions was defender Danny McGuinness. Here's why:

 

With the score tied at 4-4 at halftime, Naperville North had to feel like they had an excellent chance to beat the state's top-ranked team. But while the Huskies expended so much energy to stay with LT, the Lions were just getting started. Just like last weekend against Fenwick, Lyons was able to outlast their opposition. A major reason for that was McGuinness. His ability to force turnovers, deny shots, and not even allow the player he was guarding to get the ball doesn't fill up the stat sheet, but it's a big reason for LT's success and one of the main reasons they are favored to get to and possibly win the state title for the first time in team history. His defensive focus allows players like Shannon and Zygas to do what they do best on the other end of the pool while the opposition runs out of steam trying to figure out how to score on Lyons.

 

LOYOLA 14 LATIN 12

Focal Point: Foul Trouble

Latin was already without one of their top players, James Ruggiero, after he got rolled in last weekend's sectional final against St Ignatius. So it was important that both Eddie Wickes and Jacob Himmel stayed out of foul trouble against Loyola. After trailing 9-3 at one point, the Romans were able to claw their way back and trim the Ramblers' lead to 13-11 early in the fourth period after Himmel's fifth goal. Two plays later, Himmel earned his third ejection and was forced to sit out the rest of the game. Latin scored again to cut the lead to one. Two plays later, Danny Stauder scored a critical goal to put Loyola ahead by two midway through the fourth quarter. One play later, Wickes earned his third ejection. Even though Loyola didn't score the rest of the game, you could just tell that Latin didn't have answer on the offensive end with their three top scorers not in the pool. End result: Loyola moves to the semifinals, Latin goes home.

 

LOCKPORT 9 STEVENSON 6

Focal Point: Matt Yaeger

Dan Oldendorf and Dave Hir did what they have done all season on both ends of the pool (3 goals each). Players like Chris Formosa, Chris Neylon, and Zach Trent played a big part in the Porters' fine defensive effort. But it was the aggressive play and goalkeeping clinic put on by Lockport's Matt Yaeger that could be the main reason why the Porters surprised Stevenson 9-6 on Thursday night.

 

Besides making several key saves, it was Yaeger's ability to read the game and make the right decision time-after-time to come well out of the goal mouth to prevent fast break opportunities that the Patriots had to assume they would score on. Stevenson had several long passes that could have and should have led to goals, but Yaeger was not afraid to rush out of the net without hesitating to constantly earn steals that had the Porters celebrating jubilantly after the game while Stevenson was left wondering what could have been if they had scored on 3-4 of those breakaway attempts.

 

One play stood out in particular. On Lockport's first possession of the fourth quarter, Chris Hodges made a perimeter steal, turned the player he stole the ball from, then passed the ball ahead to allow himself to sprint to it. Would have been a sure goal against most teams, but Yaeger immediately sprung into action, beat the state-qualifying swimmer Hodges to the ball, and the crowd erupted. Even though Stevenson scored on their next possession, it was that play that symbolized the scoring chances he prevented for the home side in a close game from start-to-finish.


Girls' State Quarterfinals - Keep An Eye On...

We take a much deeper look at a few of the things that could help swing the balance of an opening-round contest on Friday night.

 

ST IGNATIUS vs STEVENSON

Keep An Eye On: Youth vs Experience

The Wolfpack enter this year's state tournament with four key contributors that are either freshman or sophomores (Karen Juarez, Maggie Maloney, Rebecca Martinez, Tammy Stelnicki). How they deal with the pressure of the big stage could play a big role in the Wolfpack's first-day survival.

 

Stevenson is led by three players; goalie Lisa Michalowski and their top two scorers, Cami Haas and Erin McCook. Can they use their experience to make another deep run at the state tournament in their final season as Patriots?

 

MCAULEY vs NAPERVILLE CENTRAL

Keep An Eye On: Izquierdo vs Gunn and Nervig

The Mighty Macs have several other options on the offensive end in Amy Kopale, Clare Bryar, Kristen Kleist, and Vicky Arciniega. But time-and-time again, Izquierdo tends to make the big play for McAuley, most notably during the postseason in 2011. Her big-ability could be a key to knocking off Naperville Central in the opening round.

 

In last year's state tournament, Stevenson figured out that if you shut down Abbey Kerth, the Redhawks will have a hard time scoring. This year, the emergence of players Lauren Gunn and Madison Nervig has helped take that option away from opposing defenses (it doesn't work all that often anyways). Still, the Redhawks will need a variety of scoring options in tomorrow's game to get past an always-stingy Macs' defense.

 

FENWICK vs FREMD

Keep An Eye On: Wickham vs del Prado

Fenwick's win last weekend over Lyons deservedly shone a light on Fenwick's Cara Borkovec. After all, she did score 4 goals and made a key play before supplying the assist on the game-winning goal in OT. And while the Friars have several scoring options in Borkovec, Colleen and Maureen Barron, and Alexa Ovalle, Wickham might be the key to the Friars' potential state title defense. She scored last weekend's game-winner, has totaled 37 goals and 37 assists in 2012, and was a key reason why Fenwick ended up losing to Rockford three weeks ago in a Michigan Tournament, as she was absent from the team. Watch for her to get some scoring chances this weekend beginning tomorrow against Fremd.

 

Fremd has a balanced offensive attack that normally sees anywhere from 5-8 players get on the score sheet in a normal game. But the key to their success this season has been taking care of the little things on both offense and defense, which is where Sam del Prado steps in. She has the ability to lead the team offensively, but she is a tough defender and helps the Vikings do many things that tend to go unnoticed. She will need to continue playing that role if Fremd hopes to upset the Friars.

 

NEW TRIER vs LINCOLN-WAY CANTRAL

Keep An Eye On: Jackovich vs Nothnagel

While Lincoln-Way Central's improvement can be attributed to the emergence of several players in 2012, the bottom line is that Danijela Jackovich will need to have a big game in order for the Knights to beat New Trier. Can she put in a dominant offensive performance against one of the state's top defenders in Erika Nothnagel? Or will the Trevians defensive star along with a solid team defense be able to neutralize one of the state's top players in order to advance to the semifinal round of this year's state tournament?


All-Sectional Teams

The All-Sectional Teams have been posted to each associated page in the 2012 Sectional Center. These selections were voted on by the coaches at each sectional, with the First and Second Team players now eligible to make the All-State Team, which will be voted on next week. The Coach of the Year award at each site was also voted on by the coaches at each sectional.

 

Finally, the teams are voted on based on season-long performances, not simply the one or two games some teams played at sectionals last week. At least that's what they tell me.


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