Evanston’s victory in the finals of the Central Suburban League boys water polo tournament knocked the 2005 team out of the school record book last weekend.
The current group of Wildkits now owns the single season record for victories — but the 2005 squad is still the only team to bring home an Illinois High School Association state tournament trophy.
Coach Kevin Auger’s team almost stumbled on the first step in pursuit of that goal Wednesday night, but held off Glenbrook North 7-5 in a quarterfinal matchup at the Glenbrook South Sectional tournament.
Evanston’s defense delivered when the offense sputtered as the Kits improved to 26-3 on the season. The second-seeded Kits will play No. 3 seed New Trier, a 14-3 winner over Maine South, in Friday’s semifinals at 6 p.m. Top seed Loyola Academy and Glenbrook South will meet in the other semifinal.
Wednesday’s tougher-than-expected triumph left Auger heaving a sigh of relief in the aftermath. The veteran coach is used to watching the Wildkits play defense with a capital D after only allowing an average of four goals per game this spring, but wasn’t happy about the fact that the offense only scored three times in the final 14 and a half minutes.
“I guess that’s on me,” Auger admitted. “We tried some different things on offense tonight, to try to muster up some more offense and get more people involved. We wanted to do some different things, things that we could work on in a real world situation against competition, instead of in practice.
“We didn’t have the energy we normally do tonight and I think we were getting a little frustrated, too. I kept waiting for us to score every time down (with possession of the ball). Everybody steps up at the sectional, and GBN really stepped up their game. I never felt like there was any kind of momentum shift — we just kept them at arm’s length tonight.
“We’ll have to play better on Friday.”
Lucas Verrilli scored a pair of goals and sparked the defensive effort for the winners, too. Verilli’s goal with 31 seconds left in the first half gave the Wildkits some breathing room, up 5-3 instead of 4-3 at the intermission. The senior standout bounced a shot past GBN goalie Matt Sedlak for the tally.
Verrilli contributed three steals in the first three minutes of the second half at the defensive end and, after the Spartans closed to within 6-5 with 2 minutes, 53 seconds left in regulation, he added a clinching score with the shot clock almost expired, the goal coming with 38 seconds left in the game.\
Jacob Finn-Samuels led the winners with 3 goals and 2 assists and Grant King and Peter Iachini also chipped in goals for ETHS. Goalie Henry Goodman was credited with 13 saves.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.