North Penn and Wissahickon came into Tuesday night's heavyweight contest as the top two seeds in the district, so a matchup of epic proportion was to be expected. Although the momentum shifted heavily at certain points in the match, both sides delivered the goods in the end.
Despite being down 2-1 after the opening period, North Penn stormed back to score eight goals in the middle quarters and held off a furious Trojans comeback en route to a 10-9 victory. The win all but locks up the No.1 seed in the district tournament and proves that the Knights can go into hostile territory and come up with results. Wissahickon battled until the end, but it came up just short.
"This is a tough place to play, Wissahickon is always pumped up to play us at home,' North Penn coach Jason Grubb said. "To get out of here with a win is all you could ask for. This should solidify us as the number one seed, but we still have to play La Salle. This was two top-quality teams that you saw and you can tell by the score.'
Wissahickon must have had their adrenaline pumping from the opening whistle. Not only did the Trojans go into the second quarter with a 2-1 lead thanks to two goals by Luke Waetcher, but they only conceded one goal against a potent North Penn offense. Unfortunately for the home side, a dooming momentum swing was just on the horizon.
"We came in and tried to do the best we could against a really good North Penn team,' Wissahickon coach Bart Schneider said. "We had some problems on offense with turnovers and gave them a little too much room on defense. I think our guys were pumped up to play the top team and I think that's why it was so close.'
In what turned out to be a defining stretch in the match, North Penn outscored Wissahickon 4-0 in the second half. Thanas Kountrouibis notched his second and third goals of the contest within the first few minutes of the period and got the Knights back in a rhythm. Liam Kelly and Mike Gallo followed suit with a goal each late the period and the Trojans found themselves down 5-2 before they could blink.
Although Wissahickon got back into the game a bit after the intermission, the Knights still looked in control. They scored three unanswered goals by Brett Else, Shane Hennessey and Kyle Supko to start the period after Waechter scored early for Wissahickon and it looked as if they would run away with the match.
Waechter was not about to let his team sink. The senior scored again with three minutes to go in the third and help set up another by Jake Berring. After conceding to Skyler Trautz, the Trojans went into the final quarter down just four goals. A comeback was going to be a tough feat, but anything can happen in front of a raucous crowd.
"Waechter is a very solid player all around,' Schneider said. "He is one of the best water polo players that I have ever coached. A big thing that we talked about before our last few games is being versatile and I think Luke had really become just that.'
Anything almost happened. Clearly the better team in the final seven minutes, Wissahickon stormed back with three goals by Waechter and a fourth by Ben Turnolo. Although the Trojans pulled within one at 9-8, Brett Else scored the insurance goal that the Knights needed and goalkeeper Jon Krail made a hug diving save to his right to preserve the victory. Waechter notched his seventh goal of the match with 1:17 to go, but Wissahickon simply ran out of clock.
"It's big to be able to come here and win,' Grubb said. "We hosted states last year, but now we have to travel so to win at someone else's pool is huge especially with a huge crowd like this. They definitely came out here with a lot of people and it was a fun atmosphere.'
Follow Nick Iuele on Twitter @nick_iuele