Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 21, 2011

M-A still has some bite in girls' PAL

by Keith Peters

It was only a year ago that the Menlo-Atherton girls' water polo team captured the Central Coast Section Division I title and Castilleja finished second in the CCS Division II finals. So much has changed since then.

Those same teams met in a showdown for first place in the PAL Bay Division on Wednesday and it was clear that neither team was close to last year's form.

The Bears, however, appear to be headed in the right direction with at least a slight chance to win a third section title in school history following a lopsided 18-5 dunking of the host Gators.

Menlo-Atherton (3-0, 6-8) all but locked up the league title as the Gators (2-1, 7-7) were really the closest challenge in what has become a weak league this season.

The Bears, despite having nine seniors on the team, are still only a shell of last season's 18-9 squad that lost CCS Goalie of the Year Emily Dorst and scoring leader MJ O'Neil plus the consistent Shelby Fero and Katherine Liang.

"It's taken us a little time to adjust," said M-A coach Chris Rubin. "We've played a tough schedule, so we've lost a lot of games. I don't expect to be a top-four (CCS) seed this year. I feel like we're making improvement and, hopefully, we'll be all set for November when the time comes."

For sure, the Bears have taken their lumps. That's the process of breaking in new players, including the all-important goalie position where Dorst dominated during the past four years. Current starter Emily Canny rarely saw any playing time in big matches last season and needs that playing time, as does backup Sierra Sheeper.

Senior Emily Gran, who scored six goals against Castilleja, is just one of many returnees from the CCS championship team. Brittany Krappe is another, along with fellow seniors Danielle Flanagan and Marie-Charlotte Popp. Thus, the nucleus is there for another title run.

Perhaps the only thing missing right now is confidence, Rubin says.

"The girls just need to believe they can do it," he said.

The tough schedule perhaps has worn away some of that confidence, but Rubin said "I always like to play the best, see where we need to adjust. We'll find out if it pays off."

The Bears will be up against it again this weekend at the Davis Fall Classic before taking on perhaps an even tougher field the following weekend in the NorCal Invitational, set for Sacred Heart Prep and M-A.

When CCS arrives in November, the Bears should be in the hunt for the Division I crown along with Leland, St. Francis, Gunn and Los Altos.

Castilleja also lost a lot of key players, including both goalies, and is competing without head coach Brenda Villa. She's in Guadalajara, Mexico, with the U.S. National Team that will be playing in the Pan Am Games.

Assistant and former Stanford player Kelsey Holshouser is holding down the fort until Villa returns, but is missing the veteran players that helped the Gators to a 17-10 record last season. Castilleja has only one senior, Camille Zubizaretta, and starts freshman Anna Yu, who scored a pair of goals Wednesday. She's one of four freshmen on the team that clearly has room to grow and improve.

In other girls' water polo Wednesday:

Getting off to its customary fast start, Sacred Heart Prep grabbed a 6-2 halftime lead and rolled to an 11-6 victory over visiting Mitty in a West Catholic Athletic League match. Senior Pippa Temple led the Gators (5-0, 15-2) with three goals while sophomore goalie Kelly Moran had 10 saves. Bridgette Harper, Clare Rudolph and Erin Sheridan all scored twice for SHP.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo School grabbed a 4-2 halftime lead after charging out the blocks, but fell to host Sequoia, 8-7. Senior Isabelle Stepien had a strong first half in goal and junior Kaelen Dunn stepped up for the Knights in the second half with six saves. Senior Ilana Crankshaw scored twice for the Knights (0-3, 2-11).

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn senior Elizabeth Anderson surpassed the 100-goal plateau for the season by leading the Titans to a 12-8 victory over host Wilcox on Tuesday. Anderson scored three goals and now has 102 for the season. Her sister, Caroline, also tallied three goals while Maggie Sockness and Missy Barr tallied two goals each for the Titans (8-1, 15-6), winners of eight straight.

Gunn went 7-0 last week, capped by a 5-0 mark and championship in the Wildcat Classic that wrapped up Saturday at Los Gatos High.

Elizabeth and Caroline Anderson combined for 36 goals during the tourney as the Titans rolled over Valley Christian, 19-5; routed Sobrato, 19-1; outscored Salinas, 13-6; held off Mitty, 7-3; and downed Presentation in the championship match, 10-2.

"In all, it was quite an impressive weekend for us," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "We're starting to play better, and we're looking to improve every day as we start to look ahead to leagues and CCS."

Boys' water polo

Menlo School remained atop the PAL Bay Division race with an easy 20-0 romp over host Sequoia on Wednesday. The Knights (3-0, 12-2) got six goals from senior Nick Hale while senior Brad Haaland and junior Micah Rosales added four each. Senior Josh Godfrey contributed two more for Menlo, which plays in the North-South Tournament beginning Friday at Palo Alto High.

Menlo opens up against Loyola at 11:35 a.m., with a victory earning the Knights a shot at top-seeded Mater Dei at 3:55 p.m. Mater Dei is regarded as the top prep team in the nation.

In San Jose, Michael Holloway and Zach Churukian each scored three goals to pace Sacred Heart Prep to a 14-6 victory over host Mitty in a West Catholic Athletic League match on Wednesday. The second-place Gators improved to 4-1 in league (11-8 overall). Will Runkel had 17 saves for the Gators and making 17 stops in an 11-5 nonleague win over host Menlo-Atherton on Tuesday.

Sacred Heart Prep will open the annual North-South Tournament on Friday at home against Laguna Beach, the No. 1 Division III team from the CIF Southern Section. A victory will move the Gators into a 3:55 p.m. match against the winner of Miramonte and Carlsbad.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, host Gunn dropped a 13-10 overtime decision to Mountain View on Tuesday despite four goals from Ari Wayne and three from Tyler Wilson. The Titans fell to 5-4 in league as they were able to convert only three of 16 man advantages.

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