After beating archrival New Trier in the Central Suburban League tournament championship game on May 5, the Evanston Township High School boys’ water polo team looked to carry the momentum gained from winning that tournament into the IHSA Glenbrook South Sectional round.
The Wildkits opened Sectional play with a matchup with Glenbrook North on May 9. In that game, the Kits prevailed by a score of 7-5. Leading the way for the Kits was Jacob Finn-Samuels, who scored three goals and tallied two assists. In addition, Lucas Verrilli scored a pair of goals, while Grant King and Peter Iachini also chipped in goals for the Kits. Goalie Henry Goodman tallied 13 saves in the contest.
The Kits, who set the record for most victories in team history with 25, after beating New Trier in the CSL tournament title game, improved to 26-3 overall with the victory against Glenbrook North. The team’s 25th and 26th victories surpass the 2005 team that won 24 games and took third place in the State tournament that season.
With the victory against Glenbrook North, the Kits advanced to the Sectional semifinals against New Trier on May 11. In that game, the Kits beat the Trevians for the second time this season, dropping the Trevians by a score of 5-4. In beating the Trevians, the Kits, who were the No. 2 seed in the Sectional, advanced to the Sectional title game against top-seeded Loyola Academy on May 12.
Against Loyola, the Kits avenged an April 10 loss to the Ramblers by prevailing by a score of 4-2, which earned them a trip to the IHSA State tournament for just the second time in program history. Ben Coleman, along with Jacob, Grant and Lucas all scored goals for the Kits, and Henry nabbed 14 saves in the victory. With the win, the Kits improved to 28-3 overall.
“It was great to see this group in particular set the record and go to State,” said head coach Kevin Auger, who indicated that several members of the 2005 and 2006 teams attended games and sent him messages in support of the team prior to Sectionals. “This is by far the hardest working group we have had since 2006. The last two years have seen a complete buy-in from the boys, and they have worked hard at developing their skill set and adapting in game situations. Defense is about hard work and discipline, and while the boys scored 30 fewer goals this year, they had 89 fewer goals scored against them.”
After the Loyola victory, the Kits took on Lyons on May 17 in the quarterfinal round of the State tournament held at Stevenson High School. In that game, the Kits were unable to get past the Lions, as they fell by a score of 7-3, thus ending the season on a sour note. With the loss, the Kits finished the season with an overall record of 28-4.
“We played well,” said head coach Kevin Auger regarding his team’s performance against Lyons. “Definitely had our best game against Loyola, but we came out very hard against Lyons. They were the No.1 team with the No. 1 player (Victor Perez, who scored four goals against the Kits) and we defended very well. They also defended well against us.”
The Coach added, “The season was the best in ETHS history so obviously went very well. We instituted a new defense, which the boys adapted very well, in no small part due to Lucas and Jacob and of course Henry. We held teams to 130 goals in 32 games, and in our toughest games against New Trier and Loyola, we held them to four and two goals against us.”
When asked what they can take away from this season that can help get them back to the State tournament again next year, Coach Auger said, “We have developed some great talent for next year. We have six returning players who started at times during the playoffs. We learned that defense can win games which means hard work wins games. We also learned that a team wins games.”
Indeed. This team certainly won a lot of games this season. And if all goes to plan, look for the Kits to pile up victories once again next season.