By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Brenda Villa has been playing water polo on the international level since 1995 and is a three-time U.S. Olympian. Yet, the first-year Castilleja coach had virtually no idea of her team's history with St. Francis until Friday.
That's when the Gators shocked the two-time defending Central Coast Section Division I champion Lancers, 5-4, in overtime on a goal by senior Natasha von Kaeppler in the second round of the St. Francis Autumn Invitational in Mountain View.
"I didn't realize how big that win was until after the game, when parents mentioned their record against St. Francis," Villa said.
Castilleja and St. Francis have played at least once every season, with the Lancers usually winning. The Gators, however, beat St. Francis in the Lancers' pool in 2007 and former Castilleja coach Ted Minnis believes there was a second victory perhaps a year earlier.
"I'm definitely not surprised," said Minnis, now the head men's and women's coach at Harvard. "For me, I've always though that this team was one of the best in CCS. They've done the work."
Castilleja (4-0) won its opener over Burlingame, 10-2, as senior Megan Costello and junior Camile Zubizaretta scored three goals each. Sophomore Sydney Molano and von Kaeppler added two apiece while senior goalie Sallie Walecka had seven saves.
Walecka was in goal instead of senior Evan Cranston, who has been sidelined with a shoulder problem. Walecka, however, played well in both matches.
"Sallie is a good goalie," Villa said. "I'm lucky to have two good senior goalies."
The victory over Burlingame moved Castilleja into the second round against the host Lancers, who had beaten Palo Alto in the first round, 7-2. St. Francis, of course, was favored to get past the Gators and reach Saturday's semifinals. Villa, however, had other ideas and saw her team take a 3-2 lead into the fourth quarter before St. Francis tallied twice to tie and force overtime. Caroline Hansen scored twice to lead the Lancers.
Castilleja got the ball to von Kaeppler for the deciding goal while its defense blanked the Lancers.
"Defense wins games," Villa said.
Costello and senior Barbara Peterson each tallied twice and von Kaeppler once for the Gators, who welcomed back senior Sayeh Bozorghadad after she sat out the opening win.
Castilleja will play Menlo-Atherton (2-0) in the semifinals at St. Francis at 2:30 p.m. The Bears topped Aragon, 7-2, and got by Rio Americano, 5-1.
In the other semifinal, Sacred Heart Prep (2-0) will play Davis at 2:30 p.m. Davis is one of the top teams in Northern California and is coached by Menlo-Atherton graduate Doug Wright.
Davis routed Menlo School, 14-1, and bounced St. Francis (Sacramento), 17-3, to reach the semifinals. Sacred Heart Prep opened with a 10-5 win over Leland and then edged Clovis West, 10-7. Sarah Westcott scored seven goals in the two wins for SHP while Erin Sheridan added five and Pippa Temple had four. Catherine Donahoe had 24 saves in goal in the matches.
The semifinal losers on Saturday will play for the consolation title at 5 p.m., while the winners will meet in the championship match at 5:50 p.m.