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Boys Water Polo: Sandburg bows to Naperville North in state quarterfinal

Lincolnshire 05/22/14--Naperville's Nolan Roberts has point-blank shot Sandburg goalie Sean Mcnicholas despite some help from teammates Mitch Zieler Mitch Winkelman.

Lincolnshire, 05/22/14--Naperville's Nolan Roberts has a point-blank shot at Sandburg goalie Sean Mcnicholas despite some help from teammates Mitch Zieler and Mitch Winkelman. Naperville North played Sandburg in a boys water polo state quarterfinal game Thursday afternoon. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 24, 2014 8:04AM



After suffering a 9-4 loss to Naperville North in April, Sandburg knew how tough the Huskies were to score on. The Eagles’ defense would have to be on its “A” game for them to have a chance in Thursday’s state quarterfinals.

Instead, North — the state’s top-ranked team — picked apart the Eagles early, racing to a 7-1 first-quarter lead. Sandburg never could recover, falling 17-4 at Stevenson in Lincolnshire.

“There’s always going to be nerves when you play a game at this level,” Sandburg’s Zach Roper said. “I think that showed in the first few minutes. Once we settled down, it was much better. Naperville North is a great team. Playing them was a great challenge. I wish it would have been a closer game, obviously, but I really loved playing them.”

Roper scored three goals and Mitch Zieler one for Sandburg (25-9), which lost in the quarterfinals for the first time in five appearances.

Nolan Roberts (5 goals) and Drake McClure (4) led the Huskies (33-1).

It was McClure who mostly was responsible for putting Sandburg’s upset dreams to bed early. He did all his scoring in the first quarter, providing two daggers in the final 34 seconds to make it 7-1.

“Drake had a huge quarter for us,” Roberts said. “Momentum started going for us. We had a great team offense going early and it never really stopped.”

Down 9-2 after Roper scored on a penalty shot with 4:12 left in the first half, the Eagles had some chances to get back into the game, but came away without a shot on goal on three straight power-play opportunities as the Huskies managed field blocks on all three possessions and went into halftime with the seven-goal lead.

“When we had some opportunities to score, we didn’t take advantage, and we knew we wouldn’t get a ton of opportunities against them,” Sandburg coach Jim Caliendo said.

“I’m really proud of these guys, though. I thought we had a better team last year and we lost to Brother Rice at sectionals, so for these kids to bring us back here was special. They peaked at the right time.”

It was the fifth state appearance in seven years for Sandburg.

“It was a great experience,” Zieler said. “It was my first time coming here. I always watched my brother (Stephen) play here and dreamed of playing here. We all had some fun.”



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