SHP teams are back in finals
M-A boys pull off upset of St. Francis to reach title match
It will be a different place, but a familiar setting, for the Sacred Heart Prep boys' and girls' water polo teams on Saturday when they seek to add to their growing collection of Central Coast Section titles.
While the championship matches have been moved from Independence High to the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, both SHP teams are back playing once again on the final day of the season.
For the boys, it will be their 10th straight appearance in the Division II title match. For the SHP girls, it will be their seventh consecutive date in the Division II finals. Not too surprisingly, all those appearances have provided opportunities.
The SHP boys have won four of the past five CCS titles and five overall since winning their first in 2003. For the girls, they have won a record five straight and have a good shot at extending that win streak to six.
Both teams posted impressive victories this week in their respective semifinals.
On Wednesday, the SHP boys jumped out of the pool at Serra High School in San Mateo following a 15-3 dunking of Soquel as they would following a particularly good practice. Reaching the CCS championship game is cool, but there's still work to be done.
"It's always been difficult against Soquel," Gators' coach Brian Kreutzkamp said. "This was the third year in a row we've played them in the semifinals and we've been done entering the final quarter the past two years."
This time around the top-seeded Gators took matters into their own hands early, scoring the first 11 goals before the fourth-seeded Knights could respond with one of their own in the third period. Sacred Heart Prep's victory was methodical and it did the job.
Junior Harrison Enright led the charge with three goals for the Gators (24-4), who will meet Los Altos for the title at 11:30 a.m. The No. 3-seeded Eagles (18-11) beat St. Ignatius, 15-8, to qualify themselves for the championship.
Menlo-Atherton and Bellarmine play for the Division I title, two teams the Gators already have beaten this season. Sacred Heart, which beat Los Altos for the CCS title last year, can lay claim to being the best in the section should it repeat.
Defensively the Gators shut down Soquel, allowing very few shots. The shots the Knights were able to get off often landed safely in the arms of Gators' goalie Will Runkel, who recorded nine saves in 3 1/2 periods.
"I'm happy we came out and took care of business," Kreutzkamp said.
Bret Hinrichs, Will Conner and Zach Churukian each added two goals for the Gators, while six others each added a goal.
On Tuesday, the Sacred Heart Prep girls also defended their No. 1 seed while rolling to an 11-5 win over No. 4 Castilleja (12-14) in a Division II semifinal at Gunn High. SHP will face No. 2 St. Ignatius (11-14) in the finals at 10 a.m.
The Gators topped the Wildcats, 14-6, to open the West Catholic Athletic League regular season in September. The teams last met in a CCS title game in 2009, with SHP winning 6-2. Thus, the Gators appear heavily favored once again while playing what amounts to a league match.
"Anti-climactic? No, not at all," said SHP coach Jon Burke. "Any opportunity to play for a CCS title is a privilege and is a real testament to the effort and dedication this group of girls have demonstrated this season.
"Having graduated five starters from last year's team, one of whom was the CCS Player of the Year (Pippa Temple), we were well aware that we would have our work cut out for us this year. This team rose to the challenge and has unequivocally set a new standard for work ethic in our program. We are very proud of what we have accomplished and are excited to play in the finals. St. Ignatius has been improving all season and is no doubt playing their best water polo right now. We are going to need to be focused and well prepared for Saturday's game."
The (20-8) got three goals from junior Caitlin Stuewe and 14 saves from junior goalie Kelly Moran in an 11-5 triumph over No. 4 Castilleja (12-14) in a Division II semifinal at Gunn High.
Stuewe converted a pair of penalty shots in the first quarter to help SHP roll to a 6-0 halftime lead. By the time Castilleja finally scored on a shot by Grace Arnold, it was 7-1 late in the third period. Camille Zelinger, P.J. Bigley and Malaika Koshy all scored twice for SHP while Arnold tallied three goals and Anna Yu two for Castilleja.
No girls' team has ever won six straight CCS titles. Should SHP accomplish that, it will tie Menlo School for the most titles won (six) in section history.
While both SHP teams were expected to reach the finals, the third-seeded Menlo-Atherton boys were not. However, the Bears pulled the upset of the tournament by topping No. 2 St. Francis, 11-10, in a Division I semifinal at Serra High on Tuesday night. The Bears (14-12) will face No. 1 Bellarmine (17-11), a 16-12 winner over Mountain View, in Saturday's championship match at 2:30 p.m.
Harrison Holland-McCowan scored six goals and Evan McClelland added three for the Bears, who will be making their first appearance in the finals since 2008 and in only their third title game.
M-A scored four unanswered goals in the third quarter for an 11-6 lead and held on from there behind goalie Peter Berquist while preventing a fourth straight Bellarmine-St. Francis matchup in the finals.
This will be M-A coach Dante Dettamanti's second appearance in a CCS finale. In his first, he guided Sacred Heart Prep to the Division II in 2003.
In girls' Division I semifinal Wednesday, No. 3 Menlo-Atherton came up short in its bid to reach the finals while dropping an 8-7 decision to No. 2 Leland at Gunn High.
The Bears (15-11) got four goals from junior Jessica Heilman and 16 saves from junior goalie Sierra Sheeper while falling to the Chargers for a third time this season. M-A had a shot to tie with 20 seconds remaining, but a seven-meter shot hit the post and defending Division I champion Leland ran out the clock.
The Bears lose only one senior, Jenna Swartz, off the team that dropped two blowout matches to Leland earlier in the season but improved to the point of taking the champs to the brink.