LINCOLNSHIRE – The Stevenson boys water polo team advanced to the state semifinals with a 12-7 win over Brother Rice on Thursday evening.
This is the second time in as many years that the Patriots (27-7) entered the final day of the water polo season with a chance to win a state championship, but the belief they have in themselves is much different this season.
“This year, realistically … there's four teams that can win [a state title]. There really is,” said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, referring to the Patriots and state semifinalists Fenwick, Naperville North and Loyola. “It's the most parity there's been probably ever. But that's I guess exciting for our kids because last year, we kind of had to lie to ourselves to find that motivation” in the state championship game against Fenwick.
The Friars – who were led last year by Matt Farmer last year, who's currently a red-shirt freshman at national power UCLA – were clearly the superior team when they played the Patriots in the 2013 state title game, but Stevenson hung in the contest and only lost 10-4.
“There was no way that we should have been within six goals of Fenwick,” Wimer said. “We completely overachieved.”
Although they didn't win, the Patriots saw firsthand what it would take to win a state championship that day.
They had to become more athletic, for one. The Patriots are taller, leaner and stronger than they were a year ago, Wimer said. They're also very skilled on offense. They had four players score 55 goals or more during the regular season – the list includes sophomore Alex Kapecki (74 goals), senior Alex Divanyan (55), senior Mitchell Sokolsky (111) and freshman Andrew Shashin (92) – and that amount of firepower will make them a tough team to beat on Saturday.
“Ever since the game against Fenwick, it's been our goal to make it back,” Divanyan said. “Now we're two games away and we're just trying to win that state title.”
The Patriots are scheduled to play Loyola in a state semifinal at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. Sokolsky and Divanyan led Stevenson with three goals apiece against Brother Rice.