For SHP girls, it's business as usual
Gators continue to roll after upending St. Francis in finals of the Amanda MacDonald Invitational
Despite losing four key members of last season's team that won a fourth straight Central Coast Section championship, the Sacred Heart Prep girls' water polo team is in line for a possible fifth consecutive crown this season.
It's still very early in the season, but the young and improving Gators already are making considerable headway to that historic goal of five straight. SHP and St. Francis currently are tied for the most consecutive section crowns while Menlo School has the most won, with six.
Sacred Heart Prep and St. Francis appear once again to be the elite teams in the CCS, with the Gators holding a 2-1 advantage over the Lancers this season following the 17th annual Amanda MacDonald Invitational that concluded Saturday at Menlo School.
Pippa Temple took an entry pass from fellow senior Erin Sheridan and scored on a cross-cage backhand out of the two-meter position to provide the winning goal in Sacred Heart's 6-5 victory over St. Francis.
Temple scored 20 goals during the two-day tourney while sophomore goalie Kelly Moran had 23 saves just on Saturday while helping the Gators go 4-0 in the event.
Sacred Heart Prep improved to 9-2 on the season with a 13-4 win over visiting Valley Christian on Wednesday. The Gators (3-0 in league) got six goals from Temple and three from Sheridan.
St. Francis, meanwhile, dunked host Menlo-Atherton, 11-2, in a nonleague showdown that was a rematch of last season's CCS Division I finale won by the Bears.
Thus, beating St. Francis on Saturday was a plus for SHP.
"We are pleased with the victory over SF in the championship game," said SHP coach Jon Burke, who has guided his team to a 107-20 record over the past four seasons, and including this year. "But, we realize it is still early in the season. SF is an experienced team that is well-coached, and you can never underestimate them."
Perhaps that was evident when the Gators fell to the Lancers in their first meeting, 13-5.
"Any time you play SF, you are going to get their best," Burke said. "They played great defense against us and made some adjustments that made it challenging for us to score. They did a nice job covering our main offensive threats (Temple and Sheridan), so the goals by Morgan McCracken (two) and Maddie Casciaro were huge for us.
"We have played them three times in the past two weeks (SF Invitational third-place match, WCAL league match, Amanda MacDonald championship match) and that has not been easy for us. Winning the past two matches is an accomplishment for our team, but we know that there is a good chance we will see them again this season."
The two rivals could meet again at the Davis Fall Classic on Oct. 22, the NorCal Championship Tournament at Sacred Heart Prep on Oct. 28-29, the WCAL Tournament finale on Nov. 5.
In their potential matchups the rest of the season, defense will be crucial in the outcome.
"We played good defense throughout the tournament," Burke said. "That has always been the foundation of our team, so executing it successfully against some of the best teams in CCS was outstanding."
Moran continued to improve in the cage after moving up from the JV squad. She's trying to fill the hole left by second-team All-American and CCS Most Valuable Player Catherine Donahoe.
Sacred Heart Prep's veterans have helped make Moran's job that much easier. Burke singled out defenders like seniors Clare Rudolph and Mackenzie O'Holleran for doing a nice job with their matchups, while Temple and Sheridan provided much of the offensive production during the weekend.
"Our seniors have been great leaders and they are keeping the team composed during high-pressure situations," explained Burke. "We continue to gain more experience as the season progresses and are really stressing the importance of taking it one game at a time.
"We prepare for each opponent we face and the athletes never take anything for granted. We want to continue to improve over the course of the regular season and are hoping to play our best water polo in November."
Also at the MacDonald Invitational, Leland defeated Los Altos for third, 8-6; Menlo-Atherton finished off a 2-2 performance with a 12-6 loss to St. Ignatius for fifth place; Palo Alto took seventh with an 11-9 win over Burlingame; Buchanan topped Soquel for ninth, 9-4; and Menlo School finished 12th following a 3-2 loss to Presentation.
Gunn (4-0, 6-5) put first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division on the line against visiting Palo Alto on Thursday after dunking host Monta Vista, 20-7, on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Anderson (six goals) and sister Caroline (five) took care of the offensive production for Gunn.
Meanwhile, Palo Alto (1-2, 7-6) failed to help Gunn take over sole possession of first place as the Vikings lost to co-leader Los Altos, 9-5. Emma Wolfe and Skylar Dorosin each scored twice for Paly.
Boys' water polo
In a battle between two undefeated teams in the SCVAL De Anza Division, defending champ Los Altos held on for a 9-8 victory over host Palo Alto on Wednesday.
Bret Pinsker scored three goals for the Vikings (3-1, 7-2) with Will Conner adding two. The teams were equal throughout the match until the Eagles pulled ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
Palo Alto didn't have time to prepare for its next match as the Vikings visit Gunn on Thursday night in a showdown for second place.
The Titans (3-1 league) tuned up with an 8-5 victory over host Monta Vista on Wednesday.
In the West Catholic Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep remained on a collision course with co-leader Bellarmine after swamping host Valley Christian, 17-7, on Wednesday in San Jose. Harrison Enright scored scored five goals for the Gators (3-0, 7-4) while junior goalie Will Runkel had 12 saves. SHP will host Bellarmine next Wednesday (6 p.m.) for first place.
On Tuesday, Menlo School defeated De La Salle for the second time in two weeks as the Knights pulled out a 6-5 nonleague victory in Concord. Menlo (8-2) also beat the Spartans in the semifinals of the Scot Roche Invitational on Sept. 17.
Despite missing a starter due to illness, Menlo made the appropriate shifts in personnel and got an outstanding effort in goal by senior Connor Dillon, who blocked two penalty shots and finished with 10 saves.
Johnny Wilson tallied two goals for Menlo while Nick Hale and Brad Haaland each scored once and had three steals each. Hale also had three assists to lead the Knights.
In PAL Ocean Division action, Kyle Walden tallied four goals but visiting Priory came up short in a 16-9 loss to Half Moon Bay. Ryan Valentine added three goals for the Panthers (1-2, 2-8) with Eric Turnquist tallying twice. Goalie Max Barnes blocked two penalty shots among his six saves.
During the weekend, Sacred Heart Prep finished fifth, Menlo School sixth and Menlo-Atherton seventh in the annual NCS/CCS Challenge that wrapped up Saturday in the East Bay.
The Gators went 3-1 in the two-day event, losing only to De La Salle (7-5) in the second round. SHP beat Drake, 10-6, to open. On Saturday, the Gators topped Menlo-Atherton, 11-6, as junior Michael Holloway scored four goals and Enright added three while Runkel had 18 saves.
In the battle for fifth place, SHP registered a 9-6 victory over neighbor Menlo School in a rematch of last season's CCS Division II championship match (won by Menlo). Runkel had 17 saves with Holloway, Zach Churukian and Kyle Koenig all scoring twice. Hale had two goals for Menlo after scoring six in a 13-4 third-round win over Las Lomas.
Menlo-Atherton went 2-2 in the tourney, topped by an 11-6 win over Las Lomas in the seventh-place match.
At the Sequoia Invitational on Saturday, Priory went 0-3 — falling to Hillsdale (11-8), Carlmont (16-6) and Sequoia (8-4). Turnquist led the Panthers with nine goals while Walden added eight.