Stephanie Flamen and Anna Yu did most of the scoring, but it was the quick thinking Maddie Macdonald that helped Castilleja move on in the Central Coast Section Division II girls' water polo tournament.
Macdonald picked up a rebound and found the back of the net with 1:50 remaining to play to give the Gators a 7-6 victory over Sobrato on Saturday at Christopher High in Gilroy.
The Gators (13-7) meet No. 7 Presentation (15-13) in Tuesday's semifinal round at Menlo-Atherton at 7:30 p.m. Presentation upset St. Ignatius in their quarterfinal match.
In a way, Presenation's win served as a warning for the Gators, who only held the lead when Macdonald scored.
"On any given day anyone in the postseason can win," Castilleja coach Brenda Villa said. "We get it on a rebound. At this point, any way you get it, it does not matter."
The sun proved difficult for Gators' goalkeeper Maddie Tarr and the Bulldogs keeper. Of the 13 goals scored in the contest, 11 came against the goalie who was staring into the sunshine.
"It's something we have to deal with in this sport," Villa said. "You just have to recognize it and respond."
Flamen, in particular, seemed to know when to take advantage. She scored twice on lob shots in which the goalie never reacted.
"Steph has one of the strongest shots in the pool but she loves to lob," Villa said. "I tell her to shoot hard on the first shot but she has the ability to read goalies and has a variety of shots. She keeps goalies guessing."
Flamen put the Gators on the board after the Bulldogs had scored the game's first three points. She also tied the game at 3.
"I think we were all a little tense," Flamen said. "We also knew we had to get it back."
Castilleja was down, 6-4, entering the final period. Neither Flamen nor Villa were too particularly worried though.
"We usually have slow starts and this was no different," Villa said. "I knew once we picked it up defensively, we would find a way to win."
Flamen scored early in the period, Yu tied it midway through and Macdonald put the finishing touches on the comeback.
Meanwhile, Afshari and the rest if the Gators kept Sobrato from scoring, though the Bulldogs did have an open shot that hit the crossbar with one second remaining.
"The thing about our team is knowing when to pick it up," Flamen said. "We can talk things over and then go out and execute it."
They just hope it won't take another comeback.
In the girls' Division I quarterfinals, No. 2-seeded Gunn (21-6) advanced to the semifinals with an 18-6 romp over No. 7 Pioneer (21-7) in the Titans' pool. Senior Caroline Anderson scored a season-high 11 goals with Bianca Batista and Rachel Wong each adding two goals for Gunn, which faces No. 6 Leland (18-10) in the semifinals on Wednesday at Menlo-Atherton at 6 p.m.
Fourth-seeded Menlo-Atherton (17-8) also advanced to the semifinals following a 5-4 win over No. 5 Mitty (15-8) in the Gunn pool. The Bears will face top-seeded St. Francis (24-2) in the semifinals at M-A on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) following the Lancers' 17-1 romp over No. 9 Carlmont (13-9).
In boys' Division I action, No. 5 Palo Alto avenged three previous losses to rival Gunn by upending the No. 4 Titans, 13-12, in overtime at Bellarmine Prep. Gunn finished one of its finest seasons in school history with a 20-7 mark. Paly will face top-seeded Bellarmine (17-10) in the semifinals on Tuesday (7 p.m.) at Serra High after the Bells bounced No. 9 Los Altos (11-17) with a 14-6 victory.
Gunn tied the game with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Christian Znidarsic drew a penalty shot and Coby Wayne converted it. Paly senior Kian McHugh scored the game-winning goal late in the second overtime.
Sam Kelley tallied four goals to pace Paly with Lucas Novak, Winston Rosati, Andrew Jozefov and Ethan Look all scoring twice.
"We changed up our offense this time around, ran some new things and it worked," said Paly coach Brandon Johnson. "We played hard, probably the best game we have played this year."
In boys' Division II quarterfinal action, top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (24-3) rolled into the semifinals with a 15-1 dunking of No. 9 Santa Cruz (17-9) at Valley Christian. Will Conner tallied three goals for the Gators while Harrison Enright, Michael Swart and Nelson Perla-Ward all scored twice. Goalie Philippe Marco had 15 saves in addition to scoring a goal. SHP will face No. 5 Soquel (19-7) in the semifinals on Wednesday (7 p.m.) at Serra.
In the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed Menlo School (22-3) advanced with a 7-5 win over No. 7 Saratoga (23-3). The Knights will face No. 3 St. Ignatius (19-7) in the semifinals Wednesday (5:30 p.m.) at Serra.
Menlo relied on strong team-oriented defense allowing 11 shots-on-goal the entire game, led by junior Andreas Katsis, who had five steals.
Offensively, the team was powered by sophomore Chris Xi with four goals, while both Katis and junior Tegan Nibbi added two assists. Center Nick Bisconti earned four ejections over the course of the game.
"Every game at this point in the season is exceptionally important," said Menlo coach Jack Bowen. "Every team is playing their best. And even with a high seed, after last year especially, we don't take any game for granted. Likewise, we won't take the victory for granted. We cherish this but realize that we have a lot of work to do to get ready for the semifinals. That now becomes the most important game of our season."