For the 364 days since the Fenwick’s eight-year stranglehold of the boys water polo state championship was ended with an 8-7 loss to Lyons, a rematch was always in the back of coach Kyle Perry’s mind.
“Realistically, we’ve been game planning since the moment we lost last year,” Perry admits.
With star senior Matt Farmer back in the lineup full-time for the first time in over a month, the Friars exacted their revenge in Saturday’s sectional championship, posting an 11-8 win over Lyons to punch a ticket to the state tournament at Stevenson next weekend.
Farmer scored six goals in his first full game since undergoing hand surgery to set up Friday’s 5:45 p.m. quarterfinal game against Homewood-Flossmoor at Stevenson.
“I’m shaking a little bit right now,” Farmer said. “I think I need to go home and sleep a couple hours after putting in that many minutes. It’s great getting back to the state tournament for the first time since coach (Dave) Perry passed away. The emotions on the team are high right now.”
Farmer wasted little time making his presence felt. He buried two goals in the first 1:09 of the match to whip the home crowd into a frenzy. But Lyons (29-2), the defending state champions, weathered the early storm.
Goals from Peter Dore, Sean McMahon and Joe Shannon matched Farmer’s three goals to tie it at 3-3 after a quarter. The teams traded goals until it was tied 5-5 before Fenwick (28-5) started to pull away. Sophomore Ryan Masi, who was called up to varsity for the match, put in a rebound and Farmer scored with eight seconds left in the half to open a 7-5 lead.
“Our guys responded (to Farmer’s early surge) well, but our defense broke down,” Lyons coach Doug Eichstaedt said. “Our defense is built to not let passes get to the middle no matter who is playing. We had a couple breakdowns and they got a couple easy goals and that’s not something that we usually do.”
Dore cut the lead to 7-6 to start the half, but Fenwick went on a 4-1 run to take control. Farmer scored two of those goals. The Friars’ defense and goalkeeper Tommy McGuire did the rest in the fourth quarter. Lyons only scored once, with the score 11-7, and McGuire sealed it by blocking a penalty shot in the final minute. He made 10 saves in the win.
“Ninety-nine percent of the credit goes to Tommy, unbelievable game,” Farmer said.
Lyons says goodbye to a senior core that last spring became the first public school to win a boys water polo state championship since it became an IHSA sport in 2002.
“The group of seniors we have, very talented, but they all work extremely hard,” Eichstaedt said. “They have a lot of pride in the team and in what we do. It’s a rare thing to have a group of kids like that. They elevated our program even more and set a higher standard. They’re going to be missed, that’s for sure.”
Fenwick returns to a place in which it is very familiar, the state tournament, with hopes of starting a new streak.
“There are hopefully three more games left,” Farmer said. “I’m kind of humbled right now. We’ll celebrate tonight, but it’s all business tomorrow.”