With its intense physicality, water polo has been described as a sport not for the faint of heart.
Quite the contrary, at Palatine Wednesday night, Hoffman Manor junior Christina Veran showed she has a champion heart.
Virlan’s tenacious performance in the water helped the Eagles beat the Pirates 13-4 in women’s water polo.
“I agree,” Virlan said of the sustained effort it took to get through four quarters of fighting in the pool.
“There’s a lot going on underwater, and sometimes you can’t see it, but you can feel it. It can get a little vicious, but it’s still a fun sport.”
Hoffman had to fight back and fight for the win as Palatini played very well and took the lead midway through the second quarter.
“We did a lot of work on pressure and defense, and we really stepped up today,” Eagles coach Teigen Bolland said. “We work together. Everyone on the team works together rather than playing alone.”
Palatini kept the pressure on early, with back-to-back goals from senior Buccaneers Eddie Blumer and juniors Kadean Pierce and Brianna Ramirez to see the home side take a 4-3 lead.
Hoffman then fought back just before half-time, leading 7-4 into the break thanks to a memorable goal from Veran.
Her close-range shot was blocked by the Palatini goalkeeper, but she continued to fight, somehow pulling the ball near the edge of the net and flipping it with a backhand to send it past the Pirates goalkeeper.
“Honestly, it was a whim,” Veran said. “I didn’t think I could escape (the backhand), but I saw my opportunity and took it.”
Hoffman extended the lead by scoring twice in the third quarter, but the data sheet doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Buccaneers continued their attack but were unlucky with four shots that bounced off the bar and were blocked by a fine play from Eagles goalkeeper Emma Banaszewski.
Banaszewski made five saves in the third quarter, several of which were brilliant.
“Emma did a fantastic job,” Boland said. “She was new to water polo but quickly moved into the goalie role. She stepped up, she learned from her mistakes, and she was eager to build and develop.”
Banaszewski pulled Palatini off the scoreboard in the final two quarters and was suspended for the second half.
Hoffman closed the game with goals from Alette Cotonieto, Emma Cronfield, Amy Lim and Harper Finkhauser.
Virlan and Lam scored 3 goals each, and the Eagles’ defense was a team effort.
“We really did a lot of work on communication,” Virlan said, “flipping the switch in the water and giving each other constructive criticism so everyone knew what they were supposed to do.
“Everyone in the team did a great job, especially the players I call ‘silent’ – we couldn’t win without them, like my teammate Helena (Ferrera). They were quiet, but They really have their feet to go out and get the job done.”