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Jettisoning eight-time defending state champion Fenwick out of the playoffs will probably go down as the most memorable moment of the Lyons Township boys water polo season. However, Saturday's 14-6 win over Loyola in the IHSA State championship game hosted by Stevenson was ultimately the big picture objective.
With their convincing victory over the Ramblers, LT became the first public school in the 11-year IHSA state series to win the championship.
The Lions (34-2) showed no title game jitters, jumping out to a 5-1 lead as Peter Dore scored twice along with goals from Joe Shannon, Sean McMahon and Kovas Zygas in the opening quarter. The Ramblers' top scorer Charlie Dowdle responded with two goals in the second quarter to pull Loyola within 6-3 at the intermission. Joe Shannon and Josh Hirt scored two goals apiece in the third quarter as LT extended the lead to 10-4. In the final quarter, Shannon found the back of the net three more times to seal the win before a packed house at Stevenson.
Shannon led LT with seven goals, followed by Hirt's three goals and two goals from both Peter Dore and Kovas Zygas. Chris Sekula starred in net for the Lions with 13 saves. Dowdle paced the Ramblers (28-8) with four goals.
In the state semifinals, LT held on to edge Sandburg 12-11. Zygas scored six times and Shannon added three goals. Loyola punched its ticket to the state championship game with a 15-6 victory over Lockport.
The Lions' signature win during their magical run to the school's first boys water polo state title came via the aforementioned Fenwick game. LT edged the Friars 8-7 at the York Sectional on May 12. Trailing Fenwick 6-4, Zygas and Shannon both scored twice to fuel the Lions' monumental comeback win. Three victories later, LT hoisted the state championship trophy in Stevenson's pool.
The members of the LT state champion team include: Sekula, Jack Linden, Sean McMahon, Shannon, James Bailey, Chris Withington, Danny McGuinness, Hirt, Michael Dow, Danny Mohler, Zygas, Rob Williams, Peter-Perez Tomayo, Nathan Kriha, Jack Patel, Tommy Kaptur, Matt Baldassare, George Duffy, Adam Kline and Dore. Doug Eichstaedt, a 1996 LT alum, coaches the Lions.
With several key starters returning next spring, LT has an excellent chance to repeat. Fenwick, which lost twice to the Lions this season, will likely be the other preseason favorite.