Two months ago, the St. Charles Preparatory School water polo team did not look like a state title contender.

Two months ago, the St. Charles Preparatory School water polo team did not look like a state title contender.

After going 1-3 in the East Lansing (Mich.) Pioneer Tournament on Aug. 19 and 20, the Cardinals rebounded to win 27 of 30 games, including a 16-6 rout of Toledo St. Francis in the state championship Oct. 22 at Mason to win their second consecutive title.

"That first tournament in Michigan was rough," said senior Alex Kocher, who had a goal in the title game. "We lost a lot of depth, so we had to condition ourselves a lot so we could play the same six or seven guys. We had to make sure we could out-swim other teams so we weren't tired in the fourth quarter."

The Cardinals (28-5) needed that stamina during a 14-13 state semifinal win over Upper Arlington on Oct. 21 at Mason. Senior Daniel Cogan scored the winner with 3.5 seconds left in overtime.

"I think that (semifinal) win Friday gave us more confidence going into the championship," said Geoff Gear, coach of the fifth-year program. "We said after that game that it might be tougher than any game we play on Saturday."

For the second consecutive season, St. Charles beat St. Francis for the title. Last season, the Cardinals won 6-4.

"It's unbelievable. It's a great feeling to win it again," said Natty Patterson, who was named to the all-tournament team with Cogan after both scored three goals in the title game. "This year, I felt more involved as a senior. We worked hard all year to get this far."

Also scoring three against St. Francis were senior Chris D'Angelo and junior Josh Cohen. Kocher and seniors Kevin Lawler, Sean O'Leary and Zach Poltor all scored once.

"We talked about how we needed to play team defense (against St. Francis)," Gear said. "We wanted to limit their getting the ball to their bigger players. We knew we could create some mismatches. The guys matching up with their fifth and sixth guys were the ones who did the scoring.

"Last year we had a stronger team and we had a slower start this year," he said. "We had to figure out our identity and everything came together (Oct. 13-14) at the regional (in Toledo). It will give the boys as well as the coaches great memories we will have forever."