Lyons Township High School’s A.J. Vitek looks to shoot during the IHSA state championship game against Stevenson at Fenwick High School in Oak Park on May 29. The Lions fell to the favored Patriots 15-8. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

The Lyons Township High School boys water polo team entered the Illinois High School Association state championship game on May 29 at Fenwick High School in Oak Park hoping to add its third title.

However, their opponent was tournament favorite Stevenson High School, which came in undefeated and completed a perfect season by defeating the Lions 15-8.

“We had plenty of opportunities, but couldn’t finish some plays,” said LTHS coach Doug Eichstaedt. “No one likes to lose the last game of the year, but I’m proud of the effort.”

The Lions (20-5) had some good looks offensively in the first half, but continually hit the posts and failed to convert several man-up situations.

Trailing 10-4, LTHS started the second half with three consecutive goals — two by Lian Malas and one by Michael Schoneman. However, Stevenson (30-0) responded with three consecutive goals of their own to effectively put the game away.

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“[Stevenson] is a great team. We didn’t play as well defensively with our assignments and they took advantage,” Eichstaedt said. “We couldn’t get things going early enough, but our guys didn’t give up.”

The Patriots’ damage was largely caused by Dmitry Kobels (4 goals, 4 assists) and Drew Wangard (4 goals, 3 assists)

In the final game of their careers, Malas finished with four goals and three assists while Schoneman added three goals for the Lions.

Despite the loss, Eichstaedt was happy LTHS was able to get a season in this spring after last year was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This was a great group of kids. It was fun practicing and playing this year,” he said. “It meant a lot to the players as well as me, and we appreciate all the support we got from the community.”

In the semifinals on May 28, LTHS rolled past Lincoln-Way East 20-6. Schoneman had four goals, Jack Walsh three, while Malas, Jack Bradbury and Matt Jablonski two apiece in a well-balanced effort from the Lions.

The Lions defeated West Suburban Silver rival York 10-8 in the state quarterfinal round on May 27. Bradbury’s goal with 3:23 remaining proved to be the game-winner.

LTHS loses seven seniors to graduation, including the Jablonski, Malas, Schoneman and Walsh.

However, Bradbury along with junior Jimmy Bolan and freshman goalkeeper Charlie Vik lead a group of returnees for next year. Expect the Lions to remain among the state’s top teams in 2022.