While everything should point to a rebuilding season for the Gators, coach Brian Kreutzkamp is hoping otherwise.
Despite the obvious loss of talent, the Gators are off to a 2-0 record after swamping visiting Serra, 17-9, in a West Catholic Athletic League opener on Wednesday.
"We have a lot of new guys," said Kreutzkamp, who has only two returning players — seniors Philip Bamberg and Robert Dunlevie — who saw significant playing time last season.
"I have four seniors, five sophomores and one freshman," Kreutzkamp said. "And all are playing minutes."
Kreutzkamp said this is highly unusual for one of his teams to be so young, but it's out of necessity because the Gators were hit hard by graduation. SHP starting goalie Will Runkel, for example, is the first sophomore ever to start in goal for Kreutzkamp.
Runkel worked out during the summer with the previous two SHP goalies, Michael Wishart (at Santa Clara University) and Ben Dearborn (at Princeton).
"He's a big kid (6-foot-3), with more size than the others," Kreutzkamp said. "But, he has a lot to learn."
Bamberg led the Gators against Serra with seven goals while Dunlevie added four. That one-two punch was enough to knock out the Padres, who trailed after one quarter (5-1) and at the half (8-3). A seven-goal explosion by SHP in the third period blew the match open. Runkel had nine saves for the Gators.
Sacred Heart Prep next will compete in the CCS-NCS Challenge, a mammoth 32-team tournament being held at four sites around the Bay Area. The Gators, who are the defending champions, open play Friday against Monte Vista (Danville) at Campolindo High in Moraga at 2 p.m. That winner will face the De La Salle-Serra winner at 5 p.m.
Menlo School will open at noon against host Campolindo, with a victory by the Knights matching them against either Acalanes or Leland. Should both Menlo and SHP win twice on Friday, they will face each other in the semifinals on Saturday at St. Francis High at 11 a.m. The championship match is set for 3 p.m.
"This will be the big test," Kreutzkamp said of this weekend. "Four quality games against the best in the CCS and NCS. I'm curious to see how things turn out."
Menlo-Atherton (6-3) will open on Friday against San Ramon Valley at St. Francis at 2 p.m. A first-round win will match the Bears against the host Lancers at 5 p.m.
Gunn will be competing again in the B bracket of the tournament. The Titans will open Friday against Marin Catholic in Campolindo's second pool at 1 p.m. Gunn reached the B finals last season before losing.
Should Menlo have the success it did in its own Scott Roche Invitational last weekend, the Knights could find themselves in the finals against St. Francis for the second straight week.
Those teams battled in the Roche finals, with St. Francis pulling out a 9-6 victory. It was the Lancers' third title in the tourney's 13-year history. Menlo is the only team to have won more (four) times.
Menlo had its moments, but early mistakes proved costly against the talented and No. 1-seeded Lancers. John Holland-McCowan and Jack Finch each scored twice for the No. 6-seeded Knights while Keegan Williams had nine saves.
Menlo opened with an 11-4 win over Bonita (Ventura) as Finch scored four goals and followed that with a 9-7 victory over Vista (San Diego) as Holland-McCowan scored four times and Williams had 10 saves. In the semifinals, Menlo blasted Los Altos, 14-4, as Holland-McCowan and Nick Hale each tallied four times. Hale also had six steals and five assists while Finch and Jake Lucas added four assists each and Kyle Bowman tossed in three goals.
For the weekend, Finch had nine goals, six assists, 12 steals and five ejections earned. Hale added seven goals, seven assists and 17 steals while Holland-Cowan scored 12 goals and Williams had 26 saves in goal.
Menlo coach Jack Bowen liked his team's counter attack, among other positives during the weekend.
"We've worked more this season on that aspect of our game than ever before and it shows," Bowen said. "I also loved the team approach to defense, as they showed that they were constantly aware and looking to help another teammate when possible.
"The scoring was balanced as we got at least seven goals this weekend from four players (Hale, Finch, Holland-McCowan and Bowman), and they played very well against varying offenses including Vista, which started three lefties -- thus essentially running their offense from the opposite side of the pool."
Menlo-Atherton went 3-1 in the tournament and finished ninth with a 12-5 victory over Bonita. Nine different players found the back of the net with junior Max Wilder leading the way with three goals in the first period. Senior co-captain Graham McClelland led a stellar defensive effort with four steals to go with one goal. His younger brother, freshman Evan McClelland scored twice.
Junior standout goalie Alex Gow stifled the Bonita offense with eight saves. He had 33 in the four matches, including 12 against Palo Alto as Wilder and Hunter Carmichael each scored twice. The Bears' only loss was a 7-4 setback to Rio Americano in the opening round.
In PAL Ocean Division action this week:
Priory evened its record at 1-1 by scoring nine goals in the fourth quarter to pull out a 14-10 triumph over visiting Mills on Tuesday.
The Panthers trailed by 10-5 heading into the final period before scoring quickly on counter attacks to get the comeback rolling. Michael Wan scored three goals in the quarter and finished with a team-high five. Ryan Valentine scored two of his three goals in the period and Houtan Bozorghadad scored both his goals while the Priory defense blanked the visitors.
Girls' water polo
Sacred Heart Prep opened its WAL season with a 17-3 dunking of visiting Notre Dame-Belmont on Wednesday.
The Gators (1-0, 5-1) had balanced scoring with seven players tallying two goals each -- P.J. Bigley, Kate Bocci, Bridgette Harper, Colleen Nawn, Erin Sheridan, Pippa Temple and Sarah Westcott.
Like the SHP boys, the Gators also will be busy in tournament action this week. SHP will open the 16th annual Amanda MacDonald Invitational on Friday by hosting Buchanan at 1 p.m. The Gators also will play Soquel at 3:10 p.m., with a victory over them into Saturday's semifinals at SHP. The championship match will be played at Menlo School at 1:30 p.m., and will be followed by the third- and fifth-place games.
Gunn (2-0, 5-0) tuned up for a big showdown at Los Altos on Thursday by swamping host Saratoga, 17-1, in SCVAL De Anza Division action on Tuesday. Elizabeth Anderson led the Titans with five goals while Rachael Acker added four.
Elsewhere in the De Anza Division, host Palo Alto (1-2, 3-6) handed Monta Vista a 16-6 loss. The Vikings jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on goals by Haley Conner, Anna Glaves (two) and Katie Masur.