After jumping out to a big lead early against Waubonsie Valley in Thursday’s Metea Valley Sectional quarterfinals, Naperville Central’s girls water polo team was able to give some reserves and underclassmen some playing time.
Coach Jeff Plackett was happy with the way they handled their opportunity.
The 15-2 win sends the Redhawks to Friday’s semifinals against Neuqua Valley, an 11-3 winner over Metea Valley Thursday.
Freshman Emily Rodgers scored two goals in the second half after being called up to varsity for the postseason. Senior reserve Sarah Giuliani had a flashy goal in the second quarter. They were among the players given an opportunity with the game in hand that responded well.
“Emily did a really nice job of making space for herself in front of the goal,” Plackett said. “We’re excited about Giuliani. That’s the good thing about a game like this. Normally we talk about (Michelle) Spaits and (Kristina) Altuve and (Kaela) Codo, but some of
the girls that were a little more unheralded looked pretty sharp tonight.”
That’s not to say that the stars for Central (26-5) didn’t look good early on. Spaits was particularly effective, scoring four goals as the Redhawks took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on Waubonsie (8-19).
“It was a nice, fast start for us,” Plackett said. “It probably took us three or four minutes to get into the rhythm of the game. I thought from the back half of the first quarter to the first half of the second quarter was really strong.”
Midseason, the Redhawks weren’t where they wanted to be as a team. Spaits says that has changed in the second half of the season.
“We kind of had a slow start,” Spaits said. “No matter what team it is, we want to come out and get our shots off quick and see how the rest of the game goes. Our team has really good chemistry, so once something clicks, we all click together.”
Waubonsie’s roster is comprised of mostly underclassmen, with only two senior starters. So coach Diane Mehl is excited to see what the future holds.
“The second half of our season was way better than the first half of the season,” Mehl said. “It was unfortunate that we got Central in the first round since we beat some of the teams above us (in the seedings). The girls went out there and played their hearts out, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Central now gets a crack at Neuqua with a trip to the sectional finals on the line.
“We’re really excited,” Spaits said. “We don’t expect anything, but we really want to get to Saturday afternoon. That’s our goal.”