Down 4-3 at halftime Saturday night, North Penn knew it needed just one more run, one more solid half of water polo to come away with the championship it had coveted since August.
“I think we realized this is our pool, and this is what we’ve worked for all season,” said senior Shannon Quinn. “We need to come through and win this for our team.”
The second half would serve as one final moment for Quinn and the rest of North Penn’s splendid senior class.
Controlling play the rest of the way, the Maidens got back-to-back goals by their two captains, Erin O’Neill and Quinn, to push ahead 5-4. And although the persistent Eagles tied the contest at five, North Penn went in front for good when a goal by senior Leah Brown provided a 6-5 edge, culminating in a 7-6 triumph that climaxed a 29-0 season.
Perfection did not come easy. It never does.
Cumberland Valley, a team the Maidens had defeated 10-3 at Beast of the East and 14-4 at the Knight Invite, had come on strong, fortified by the heroics of one Emily Wickenheiser, who would go on to earn Player of the Year honors.
But through it all, the leadership provided by O’Neill, Quinn, Brown and Aimee Baur kept pushing the Maidens toward the completion of their quest.
“Our seniors are amazing,” coach Katie Grunmeier said. “I love them. They’re the best. They’re the heart and soul of our team, the heart and soul of our program for the last three or four years.”
All four seniors would be named First Team All-State. In as balanced an attack as you’ll see, Brown’s nine goals led the way in the tournament, followed closely by Baur’s seven, Quinn’s six and O’Neill’s five.
In addition, sophomore goalie Rosalinda Rivera played with a level of poise beyond her years, holding down the fort in the second half against Cumberland Valley and going on to record 34 saves in the 3-0 tournament run.
Sophomore Caroline Gillespie received All-State Honorable Mention while Grunmeier’s leadership earned her Coach of the Year honors.
A dynasty that may have plenty of years ahead, it was North Penn’s second consecutive state crown, fourth in the last five years, and seventh in the last 10.
“The kids put in the work and the time,” Grunmeier said, “and success follows.”
With players like Gillespie and Rivera returning, a three-peat is not out of the question. Saturday provided the class of ‘16 to have one final (championship) moment.
“We worked so well together and we played together for four years,” Quinn said. “It feels great to have won it with them.”
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