OAK PARK – Fenwick boys water polo isn’t familiar with not being the defending state champion.
The Friars, which won eight straight titles in a row from 2004-2011, entered this season as a challenger.
Defending champion Lyons Township was coming off the first state title in program history and had the core of its team back. That wasn’t enough to beat the Friars in a sectional final for the second straight year.
Fenwick beat the Lions 11-8 on Saturday in front of an overflowing crowd at Fenwick.
The Lions and Friars split two regular season meetings. LT finished the season 29-2, with both losses coming to Fenwick.
It’s the first time the powerhouse Friars will head to the state quarterfinals, which take place at Stevenson on Friday, since the death of legendary coach Dave Perry in 2011.
“Emotions are really high, getting back to the state tournament for the first year since Coach Perry passed away,” said Fenwick senior Matt Farmer, a La Grange resident who scored six goals.
Sophomore Danny Farmer scored two early goals to give the Friars a 3-1 lead. LT answered with goals from Sean McMahon and Joe Shannon, but they would never lead.
The loss marked the end for a senior group that included McMahon, Shannon, Josh Hirt, Peter Dore and star goalie Chris Sekula.
“The group of seniors that we have from last year to this year are very talented, but they all work extremely hard,” said LT coach Doug Eichsteadt. “They have a lot of pride in the team and what we do. It’s a rare thing to have a group of kids like that. They gave our team a lot to cheer for and obviously elevated our program even more and set a higher standard.”
Fenwick heads into state as the heavy favorite.
Girls: Fenwick 10, Lyons 2
In the first sectional final of Saturday’s doubleheader, the two-time defending state champion Fenwick girls water polo team also knocked off LT.
Colleen Barron scored five goals for the host Friars in a 10-2 win.
Molly McDonnell and Frankie Delleman scored for LT to tie the game at 2-2 early in the second quarter, but it was all Fenwick after that.
Seniors McDonnell, Carly Strass, Blair Hopwood, Meghan Wonderling and starting goalie Tegan Moore led the young Lions this season. Strass and Hopwood were contributors on LT’s 2010 undefeated state championship team.
“Some of these girls have been playing since they were in sixth grade,” said LT coach Lauren Burel. “They put in a lot of time with the program developing it, so it’s going to be hard to see them leave.
“Overall I think we did a lot better than I was expecting. We had such a young team so it’s good to look forward to the future.”