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  By Aaron Brown

  May 2013


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Only eight teams remain in the state water polo playoffs in 2013. The sectional winners meet for a total of four contests to determine which teams will continue playing on Saturday for a chance at a state title. Here is your guide to all of the action on Friday, May 17:





4:30pm Naperville North vs New Trier

The most intriguing battle of the boys' quarterfinal round kicks things off on Friday when the Huskies and Trevians do battle in the first game of the night. Naperville North will be hoping things go just like they did when they beat New Trier 14-4 in the title game of the GBS Sectional in Week 7. The Trevians expect things to be different, as they lost star Jordan Palmer to injury for most of the first contest and have finally overcome the obstacle that is Loyola in an 11-9 sectional final win last weekend. Neither team lacks in the depth category, as any number of players could emerge as the hero as both squads have their sights on a state trophy. Eric Curia is the focal point of the offense for the Huskies, but he is strongly supported by Adam Nyland, Drake McClure, Garrett Nash, Gianmarco Duin, Luke Landiak, and Nolan Roberts. New Trier's depth has always been their strong suit, as Palmer is backed up by Dano Johnson, Jason Bartha, Joey Ryan, Matt Weiser, John Schulz, Reid McCulloch and a handful of other contributors.


Questions: Will the difference in state experience make a difference for the goalies, as Michael Shabel manned the nets for North in last year's 8-4 semifinal loss to Lyons while John Friesen is making his first state tournament start? Will the aforementioned experience issue be a factor, as the Huskies have been in this situation before while this is new for the Trevians? Will North be ready for a close contest after mowing through the competition at the Neuqua Valley Sectional? Which New Trier team will show up, the one that lost to Lyons by one goal at this same pool in Week 8, or the one who got blown out at the end of Week 7 in the first meeting with Naperville North?


Previous meeting: Naperville North beat New Trier 14-4 to win the GBS Tournament on April 20. Eric Curia, Gianmarco Duin, and Nolan Roberts each scored 4 goals as the Huskies' built a 6-2 halftime lead and pulled away for a double-digit win in the second half. John Schulz led the Trevians with 2 scores in the loss.




5:45pm Fenwick vs Homewood-Flossmoor

Going into last weekend, there were may who thought this second quarterfinal contest could have been between Lockport and Lyons. Then, Matt Farmer returned from injury to lead Fenwick back to state after a one-year absence and Jakobi McClellan and Kevin Kuchta stepped up to help the Vikings dethrone the Porters and earn one of the eight spots in the boys' state tournament festivities. The Friars started the season on a roll, beating the defending champions (Lyons) to win their own tournament in Week 2, but the loss of Farmer for five weeks played a role in three losses to Missouri-based teams (MICDS, SLUH) and another to the Lions in Week 8. Things have changed with Farmer back in the fold, so Fenwick will be hoping to handle the Vikings like they did in their own tournament when they earned a 15-5 victory. That was ages ago, so an improved Homewood-Flossmoor squad could use their momentum from last weekend's overtime win over Lockport to challenge the top-ranked Friars. Fenwick head coach Kyle Perry has plenty of other options at his disposal with Andrew Bertschy, Danny Farmer, Omar Calderon, Matt Bresnahan, Ryan Masi, Tony Perez, Trevor McLean, and more all hoping to make an impact over the weekend. For the Vikings, head coach Tim Caldwell hopes that Broc Thompson,Hayden Santefort,  Edgar Wright, Mason Reidel, and Mike Mitchell can be difference-makers in this opening round contest.


Questions: Has Farmer fully recovered from the surgery that kept him out for five weeks before his triumphant return? Can McClellan keep the Vikings in the game if the Friars come out firing in the early stages of this contest? Can the Vikings, especially Kuchta, stay out of foul trouble against a team that has an abundance of depth? How much of an impact will Fenwick goalkeeper Tommy McGuire have if the Vikings keep things close in the first half?


Previous meeting: The Friars earned a 15-5 victory over H-F on March 15 at the Fenwick Tournament. Matt Bresnahan scored 4 goals and Andrew Bertschy, Danny Farmer, Matt Farmer, and Trevor McLean all scored 2 goals in the win for the Friars. Despite the double-digit loss, Vikings' goalie Jakobi McClellan impressed with a 13-save performance.




7:00pm Conant vs Stevenson

There's a bit of mystery surrounding the matchup between Conant and Stevenson in Friday's state quarterfinal round. The teams did not meet in 2013, so the Patriots will have to hope that their regular season wins over the Cougars' MSL compadres like Fremd and Palatine translates into a win over the MSL champions on Friday night. Conant won the Fremd sectional after shutting out Schaumburg and getting past Hoffman last weekend, but they will face a charged-up Stevenson team playing in their home pool in front of their home fans in a situation they have been in before after qualifying for state last season. Meanwhile, the Cougars' starters weren't around for the team's first state appearance five years ago, so experience could play a factor in this contest. Conants Jon Burke leads the offense, but they have a wide-range of contributors that includes Connor Schmitz, Devin Schmitz, Jake Nelson, Kyle Bradberry, and Matt Engebretson. The Patriots have a plethora of weapons that starts with Remy Dalloul and Mitchell Sokolsky and continues with Alex Divanyan, Alex Kapecki, Josh Weisberg, Taylor Baretz, and Varun Mummadi.


Questions: Will Conant's lack of state tournament experience have any impact on their performance? Can the Patriots take advantage of playing in their own pool? Can they also shake the memory of last year's loss to Lockport in the quarterfinal round? How much of an impact will Rob O'Brien, easily one of the state's best goaltenders, have on this game? Likewise, how will newcomer Aly Ahmed perform for Conant in his first year between the pipes via the student exchange program?


Previous meeting: The two teams did not meet in 2013.




8:15pm Brother Rice vs St Ignatius

The biggest grudge match of the night closes out the quarterfinal round as Catholic League forces clash in a rubber match to see who will get to play for a trophy on Saturday. St Ignatius won the first meeting between the two teams on a last-minute goal by Tom Dowling in Week 2, but the Crusaders won the most recent contest in early May to finish in third place in the MCAC Tournament. Rice and SICP have both shown major improvements throughout the season and both have the capability to advance all the way to the state final game if things work in their favor. The Crusaders look to Kevin Mayer to lead the offense, but their well-balanced machine also counts on Dan Birmingham, Dan Whalen, Dave Jackson, Ian Disteldorf, and Matt Bachler to chip in at various times. The Wolfpack blend youth and experience to get things done, as the likes of Billy Barth, Jesus Juarez, John Reyes, Shane Hughes, Tom Dowling, and Themio Christy all play key roles for head coach Luis Martinez' squad.


Questions: Which goaltender will emerge as the hero in this contest, as both teams boast high-quality keepers in Cal Kennedy (Brother Rice) and Tym Zymon (SICP)? Will the youth of the Wolfpack help or hurt their chances to advance to the next round?


Previous meeting: The Wolfpack beat Brother Rice 11-10 in a conference game on March 11. The Crusaders topped Ignatius 10-7 in the consolation game of the Catholic League Tournament on May 4.


In the first meeting, Tom Dowling netted the game-winner with seven seconds left as John Reyes put in 4 goals and both Dowling and Shane Hughes scored 3 times. Dave Jackson and Kevin Mayer scored 3 goals apiece in the Crusaders' loss.


More recently, Dan Birmingham, Dan Whalen, Ian Disteldorf, and Matt Bachler each scored 2 goals as the Crusaders claimed third place in the Catholic League by beating the Wolfpack. The trio of Dowling, Hughes, and Reyes scored all 7 goals for SICP.





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