Year in and out, Sacred Heart Prep and Bellarmine often can be found battling for supremacy in the West Catholic Athletic League boys' water polo race. St. Francis usually is in the mix, as well.
Last season, the Bells topped the Gators during the regular season before SHP avenged that defeat in the WCAL playoffs. Both teams went on to win their respective Central Coast Section titles.
The Bells lost a handful of players to graduation, but picked up former SHP assistant coach Colin Mello to replace veteran coach Larry Rogers. Despite his obvious knowledge of the Gators' personnel, it made little difference on Wednesday in the team's annual showdown.
Sacred Heart Prep scored early and grabbed an 8-3 halftime lead on the way to a 13-9 triumph in San Jose. Bret Hinrichs scored five goals while Harrison Enright, Nelson Perla-Ward and Zach Churukian all added two.
Senior goalie Will Runkel stopped nine shots as the Gators improved to 3-0 in league (5-2 overall) and remained tied for first with St. Francis, a 19-11 winner over St. Ignatius on Wednesday.
The Gators and Bells could meet again, as early as this weekend in the annual NCS vs. CCS Challenge. The big 32-team field will be held in five pools starting Friday.
In addition to Bellarmine and Sacred Heart Prep, host St. Francis will be competing along with Gunn, Menlo School, Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton.
Bellarmine and St. Francis will open on Friday at St. Francis while Gunn faces Aptos in a first-round match Friday at Los Gatos High. At Acalanes High on Friday, Menlo will take on Las Lomas (2 p.m.), Sacred Heart Prep will face Monte Vista of Danville (3 p.m.) and Menlo-Atherton wil tangle with Campolindo (4 p.m.). Palo Alto will face Berkeley (1 p.m.;) at Campolindo High in Moraga.
Should SHP and M-A win their openers, they'll face each other in the second round at 8 p.m.
The top teams will advance to St. Francis on Saturday, with semifinals set for 10 and 11 a.m. The championship match will be played at 3 p.m., with third place decided at 2 p.m.
In WCAL girls' water polo action Wednesday, Kate Bocci, Caitlin Stuewe and Morgan McCracken each scored three goals and Kelly Moran stopped 10 shots to carry host Sacred Heart Prep to a 14-6 win over Presentation. The Gators improved to 3-0 (5-3).
Menlo School avenged a pair of losses to rival Sacred Heart Prep last season by handing the Gators a 246-250 loss on Wednesday in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) dual match at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club.
The Knights rebounded from a loss to unbeaten Castilleja on Monday as Jessie Rong started the match by getting a birdie on the first hole on her way to being medalist with a 4-over-par 40.
Menlo's Caroline Broderick shot 42 with a birdie on the eighth hole. Sacred Heart's Emma Dake and Maddy Ellison both shot 47. Menlo' started four freshmen, including Rong.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, sophomore Anna Zhou shot a 4-over 41 as Gunn remained unbeaten in the Blossom Valley Athletic League with a 233-361 win over Sobrato at Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course. The Titans (4-0, 7-1) also got a 43 from Jayshree Sarathy and Tiffany Yang, with Lianna McFarlane shooting 51 and Sandra Herchen a 55.
It was an easy day for host Menlo as the Knights picked up three default wins at the top three singles to post a 7-0 win over Notre Dame-San Jose on Wednesday. The victory gave Menlo a 190-0 record in league play since 1994 and provided coach Bill Shine with his 380th career win in his 17th season at Menlo.
Menlo School prevailed over Presentation, last year's CCS Division II runner-up, 23-25, 25-11, 25-22, 22-25, 15-8, in nonleague action Wednesday to improve to 12-5 overall.
"The team played at a very consistent level tonight and looked confident on the court," Menlo coach Atlee Hubbard said. "We found our rhythm late in the first set and dominated the second set with practically perfect volleyball."
In the third set, junior outside hitter Maddie Huber helped to close the set with one of her season-high 25 kills. Presentation was persistent and gained momentum in the fourth set, but Menlo started the fifth set strong with a 7-1 lead and never slowed.
Huber had one of her best performances this season while adding 23 digs. Maddy Frappier followed with her season-high 18 kills and 15 digs. Morgan Dressel provided a lot of power in the middle with 12 kills and four blocks. Sophomore setter Elisa Merten had one of her best performances with 54 assists and 21 digs.
Once again serving was one of the Knights' most effective weapons and libero Melissa Cairo finished with six aces along with 22 digs.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Lena Latour produced 16 kills and Erica Johnston added 14 as Gunn posted a 25-15, 22-25, 25-7, 25-12 nonleague vitory over host Wilcox in Santa Clara. The Titans improved to 9-7.