The Lyons Township High School boys water polo team defeated Neuqua Valley 9-8 in overtime of the fifth-place game of the Dan Lynch Classic at Fenwick on Saturday. Senior co-captain Tommy Kaptur scored three goals and junior Sam Szczepaniak added two goals to lead the Lions.
LTHS won three of four matches at the tournament which provides plenty of tough competition early in the season.
“This is the first big tournament of the season,” LTHS coach Doug Eichstaedt said. “It provides us some great challenges and kind of lets us see where we’re at as a team. Every season we’re looking for players from the previous year’s [varsity] and kids from the frosh-soph team to step up. I think this season we have a strong and talented mix between the seniors and juniors.”
Overall, the Lions are off to a 5-1 start, also claiming victories over Hinsdale South 16-6 (3/12) and conference rival Oak Park and River Forest 14-9 (3/10).
LTHS had a solid campaign last season with a 21-11 record and West Suburban Conference championship. Fenwick topped LTHS 13-7 in a sectional final of the state playoffs last year. While the Friars have dominated the matchups historically, the Lions famously stunned Fenwick in the 2012 state playoffs en route winning the state championship.
The Friars edged the Lions 8-6 over the weekend at the Dan Lynch Classic. Needless to say, a nice rivalry has developed.
“If you’re going to win a state championship, you’re going to have to beat Fenwick at some point,” Eichstaedt said. “The goal [at Fenwick] is to compete for a state title every year and we have the same goal. There are a lot of great teams, but we’ll give it everything we’ve got and hopefully we’ll be there in the end.”
Kaptur, an experienced defensive hole player, and fellow senior captain/goalie Jack Linden are the Lions’ two top returning players this spring.
“Tommy is our primary center defender but we’re going to get him more involved offensively,” Eichstaedt said. “Tommy is excited about expanding his role. Jack has looked awesome for us. He had a great game against Fenwick with about 15 saves and we’re thrilled to have him as our goalie.”
Junior George Lundgren is another returning starter and versatile player for the Lions.
“George is one of our top offensive threats,” Eichstaedt said. “He does a lot of the little things well and really understands the game. He’s very adept at seeing things in the pool and anticipating plays.”
Szczepaniak, a promising junior, provides more punch offensively for the team.
“Sam is a good, lengthy player,” Eichstaedt said. “He has long arms and is good off the drive. He can go get balls up in the air and make plays. He also has a great outside shot.”
Seniors Nathan Henderson and Matt McDonnell along with juniors Thomas Waters, Michael Zahorik and Adam Cardone are other key contributors for LTHS.
“We’re a team of attackers,” Eichstaedt said. “That’s the way we want to play this year. We want to look for matchups and use our speed and positioning to get better shots. I feel like this is one of our deeper teams. The guys really work well together.”