Naperville North has been the best in the state all spring, losing just once and breezing through its sectional by an average of more than eight goals per game.
With 10 state championships in the 13-year history of the IHSA tournament, Fenwick still is the team to beat — a notion North's Nolan Roberts conceded even though Naperville North got the better of Fenwick earlier this season.
The Huskies (33-1) and defending-champion Friars (30-4) both recorded lopsided victories in the state quarterfinals Thursday at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and will meet in a semifinal rematch at 9 a.m. Saturday.
- Photos | Boys water polo: Sandburg vs. Naperville North
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Adlai E. Stevenson High School, 1 Stevenson Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069, USA
Carl Sandburg High School, Illinois and Michigan Canal, 13300 South La Grange Road, Orland Park, IL 60462, USA
Naperville North High School, 899 Mill Street, Naperville, IL 60563, USA
Saint Ignatius College Prep, 1076 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60607, USA
Brother Rice High School, South Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60655, USA
Fenwick High School, 505 Washington Boulevard, Oak Park, IL 60302, USA
Naperville North, which beat Fenwick 11-10 on March 22 after dropping a 12-10 decision to the Friars in last year's semifinals, hopes to be playing for its first state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"There is no better team to beat than Fenwick," Roberts said. "They are a private school and they are all about water polo. They are like the Yankees of water polo, the Heat."
Roberts, whose five goals during North's 17-4 quarterfinal victory against Sandburg gave him 133 this season, said he and his teammates talked openly of going undefeated.
The Huskies won their first 25 games before being knocked off by Lyons 8-7 on April 29. They've outscored the competition 118-37 since.
"We've gotten better," Roberts said. "Lyons was a big wakeup call. We thought it was going to be easy. Everyone wanted to go undefeated. That was the goal. We were up 4-0 against Lyons and we thought we would win easy. But that was good for us."
On a crusade: While Brother Rice proved to be no match for Stevenson in a 12-7 loss Thursday, it's unlikely any of the other seven quarterfinalists took more pride in their sectional championship.
The Crusaders were 8-17 and in the midst of a four-match losing streak before upsetting Curie 10-9 in a semifinal of the Stagg Sectional before topping the hosts 12-10 in the final.
"We changed up our offense a bit (heading into sectionals) and we changed up our defense," said junior Matt Bachler, Brother Rice's leading scorer. "We worked on tactics to not draw fouls and cause takeouts.
"We were very happy to get here. It was a long season. I think we're going to be a strong team next year. We've got a good, young team and we only lose three seniors. We're going to come back here."
Hi, five: Five of the eight schools represented in the quarterfinals Thursday will be back at Stevenson on Friday for the girls quarterfinals — Naperville North, Fenwick, Stevenson, St. Ignatius and Palatine.
New Trier, Mother McAuley and Lincoln-Way East are the other girls quarterfinalists. St. Ignatius is the defending champion.
"A lot of it's tradition, and a lot of it is coaching," said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, the son of Stevenson girls' coach Jeff Wimer. "You look at the programs who always dominate, they have great coaching. Palatine has good coaches. Loyola is coached very well. All the teams are.
"I played with (Napeville North coach) Martin Bell growing up. I played with (Fenwick coach) Kyle Perry. We've all been around for years. You see these teams that develop players, that's why they're here year after year."