Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 14, 2011

Menlo takes over polo race

Knights in drivers' seat after holding off M-A in a PAL showdown

The good news for the Menlo-Atherton boys' water polo team was that it held rival Menlo School to three fewer goals than in the teams' previous meeting. The bad news? It didn't matter.

The Knights, who had beaten the Bears by a 9-4 score to win the Scott Roche Invitational last month, made it two-in-row with a 6-4 triumph on Wednesday in a key PAL Bay Division match.

While the Roche title was important for Menlo, this latest victory moved the Knights closer to defending their 16th straight division crown and the 17th in the past 18 seasons. Menlo coach Jack Bowen has won 11 straight since taking over in 2000. The last time Menlo failed to win a league title was 1995.

The host Knights (2-0, 10-2) used their swarm-style defense to hold the Bears (1-1, 9-8) to four goals for the second time this season. Menlo's defense was sparked by the goalie play of senior Connor Dillon, who came up with 12 saves.

Menlo-Atherton actually forced a 3-3 deadlock in the second quarter when Max Wilder made a steal and a sprint in open water to score. The Knights, however, countered quickly with senior Nick Hale finding the net just seconds later for a 4-3 halftime lead.

Menlo improved its lead in the third period on goals by Hale and Alexander Carlisle, who finished with three to lead the team. Hale wound up with a pair. Menlo had assists from Hale, Jack Lucas, Brad Haaland, and Carlisle. Evan McClelland had a pair of goals for the Bears, with Morgan Olson-Fabbro and Wilder adding the others.

Menlo, the defending Central Coast Section Division II champ, will host Southern California power Santa Margarita on Friday at 2:30 p.m. during in the Knights' homecoming weekend.

Santa Margarita also will play at Menlo-Atherton on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. In another nonleague matchup, The Bishop's School (La Jolla) will visit Sacred Heart Prep on Saturday at 9:45 p.m.

Sacred Heart Prep and Palo Alto will co-host the annual North-South Tournament on Oct. 21-22, which will feature many of the top teams from Northern and Southern California.

Elsewhere in water polo this week:

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, host Palo Alto remained just a game back of first-place Los Altos (8-0, 13-4) following a wild 12-7 victory over Mountain View 5-3, 13-4). Bret Pinsker tallied five goals and Aaron Zelinger added three as the Vikings (7-1, 10-3) jumped out to a 6-3 halftime lead.

Paly overcame a mixup at the scoring table that reportedly erased two Mountain View goals and played on after three starters were excluded on fouls and a fourth, Pinsker, was ejected.

Palo Alto will visit Los Altos on Oct. 20 (6:45 p.m.) with a shot to tie the Eagles for the regular-season title. Los Altos won the first meeting, 9-8.

In Cupertino, Gunn rolled to a 16-4 SCVAL De Anza Division victory over host Homestead as Tyler Wilson poured in six goals and Gavin Kerr added four. The Titans (4-3 in league) also got two goals from Michael Znidarsic and Coby Wayne.

Cross country

Junior John Lovegren failed to score any points for his Menlo-Atherton boys team on Tuesday. Then again, just finishing took every ounce of courage and determination he could muster. It would have been easier to give up on the race and call it a day.

Lovegren, instead, picked himself off the dirt of the Crystal Springs Course in the hills west of Belmont, and without bothering to dust himself off, started all over again. He continued to race despite feeling dizzy and suffering headaches over the final stretch.

Bears' senior Mike Hester finished in third place, three minutes ahead of Lovegren, and was one of the first to comfort him.

Hester completed the 2.95-mile course in 15:46, eight seconds behind the winning time recorded by Carlmont's Jeffrey Stalun. M-A junior George Baier finished 10th in 16:22.

Lovegren doesn't exactly know what happened during the PAL race. He collapsed, or fainted, or something, near the 1 1/2 mile mark of the course. He just remembers being on the ground, feeling a push, and getting up to continue racing.

The Bears finished third (with 81 points), to Carlmont (30) and Aragon (76), but the result was pushed down the priority list as coaches and runners came to the aid of their teammate.

Lovegren, who still managed to finished 62nd out of 111 runners, even tried to apologize for letting his teammates down. Afterward he described how he felt as "being car sick."

Menlo-Atherton has one of the top teams in the CCS, though Carlmont, as usual, dominated the race. The Scots had all seven of their runners finish among the top 13.

Senior Jordan Scandlyn was M-A's third runner, finishing 17th in 16:57. Zach Plante and Alexander Aguiar also scored for the Bears.

The M-A boys will enter the PAL championship meet, which counts double, tied with Aragon for second place. The top nine teams (of 17) qualify for the CCS meet, which will also be held at Crystal Springs on Nov. 12.

-- Rick Eymer contributed

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