LOCKPORT – After leading Lincoln-Way East’s boys water polo team to the Illinois High School Association quarterfinals a year ago, where the Griffins suffered a 7-6 loss to Conant to end a 20-12 season, East coach Ryan Lodes feels good about his chances this season with 11 members from that team back in the water.
And with the sectional assignments announced this week, East’s strong start to the season might earn the Griffins a No. 1 seed in the 11-team Lincoln-Way West Sectional.
On Thursday, the Griffins played a SouthWest Suburban Conference match against a tough Lockport team and came away with a 12-7 win.
Coach Joe Lewandowski’s Porters team also is off to a good start, but the Griffins struck early and put the defensive clamps on Lockport throughout.
The Griffins improved to 11-4 overall and 4-0 in the SWSC, while Lockport fell to 6-3 on the season and 1-1 in the conference.
East goalkeeper Max Gilmore, who made a number of quality saves, was a difference maker, and the Griffins defense helped him out by limiting quality shots by the Porters.
“The guys have really embraced our program,” Lodes said. “It wasn’t too long ago that the East wasn’t winning many games, but now the guys have total buy-in. My guys are fantastic, and they put in the time in the offseason, and they’re committed in the season on a daily basis. We want to have team defense, and Max is the leader of that. He does a phenomenal job, and it shows.”
East got the game’s first four goals before the Porters scored late in the first quarter to make it 4-1. Then the Griffins scored the first five goals in the second quarter before Lockport responded with a goal with 1:00 left in the half to make it 9-2.
“It’s nice to get wins over teams like this,” Gilmore said. “We have a really strong defense, and they help me out a lot. We try to play everyone in each game, and we may give up a goal here and there, but it’s nice to get the whole team in. We’re excited for the postseason.”
It was more of the same in the third quarter, as East scored all three goals to build a 12-2 lead. Lockport scored five of its goals in the final 3:18 of the game. The Griffins were led in scoring by Noah Schor, who had a game-high four goals.
Lockport was led by Lucas Bergstrom with three goals.
“We just found out about the sectional, and the odds are good that we might get the first seed,” Schor said. “Max is doing really well and is stepping up, and our defense is starting to come together a lot and is not allowing a lot of shots.”
Lockport recently learned that it will be in one of the state’s toughest sectionals at Neuqua Valley, where three Naperville teams are in the top 10 in the www.illpolo.com rankings.
“They’re not in our sectional, so we knew ahead of time that we were going to be working on things,” Lewandowski said. “Ryan does a great job there, and his kids are very solid fundamentally. The ball didn’t fall the right way, and we had some turnovers and missed some defensive stops and that happens.”