SHP girls swim off with MacDonald water polo championship

SHP boys finish fifth in the CCS-NCS Challenge tournament

It wasn't the sweep that both teams had hoped for, but the Sacred Heart Prep water polo programs still had solid showings in two tournaments that finished up on Saturday.

At the 16th annual Amanda MacDonald Invitational at Menlo School, the Sacred Heart Prep girls capped a big weekend with an 8-4 victory over St. Francis in the championship match that featured last season's CCS Division I and II champions.

At the 32-team CCS-NCS Challenge at St. Francis High, the SHP boys bounced back from a second-round loss to win their final two matches and claim fifth place with a 11-10 triumph over San Ramon Valley on Saturday.

"Our team was pleased with the weekend," said SHP coach Jon Burke, whose team improved to 9-1. "Our defense was key. Catherine (Donahoe) is doing a great job in the goal and our defenders have been successful with their individual matchups. It's important that we stay focused and continue working hard at practice every day."

The championship certainly was well-timed for Sacred Heart, which will host St. Francis on Tuesday (6 p.m.) to open the West Catholic Athletic League season. The teams could meet again at the Davis Fall Classic (Oct. 15) and perhaps at the NorCal Championships (Oct. 29-30), which is being held for the first time at Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep.

Since SHP's only loss this season is to Davis, the Gators are the top-ranked team in the CCS. SHP certainly played that way during the weekend as it outscored opponents 41-16 while Donahoe made 38 saves. She had 15 in a 7-2 victory over Los Altos in the semifinals on Saturday morning.

"We played great defense in the semifinal and championship matches," Burke said. "We have been focused on playing great defense all season and have spent a lot of time working on our front court and transition defense. We want good defense to be the defining characteristic of our team.

"Los Altos and St. Francis are well-coached and have some outstanding athletes on their teams. Although we went with some individual matchups in those games, we did a great job helping on their key players. It all starts with Catherine. When she is blocking the ball well it creates a lot of momentum for us and allows our counter-attack to get going. Although we have had some early success this season, we know that playing well in November is the most important thing.

Pippa Temple led the Gators' offensive charge in the finals with four goals while Sarah Westcott added two. Against Los Altos, Emily Parsons, Temple and Westcott all scored two goals.

Menlo-Atherton (5-4), which dropped a 7-6 overtime decision to St. Francis in the semifinals, also lost to Los Altos (12-2) in the third-place game. Senior goalie Emily Dorst had 46 blocks in the four games while senior Mary Jane O'Neill talled six goals.

Palo Alto (7-7) won the seventh-place game over Buchanan, 8-7, while Menlo (3-7) downed Soquel, 11-2, for 11th place.

The Sacred Heart Prep boys (5-1), meanwhile, bounced back from their tough second-round loss to De La Salle on Friday to beat rival Menlo, 12-11, in four overtimes on Saturday morning. In a rematch of last season's CCS Division II title game won by SHP, the Gators got nine goals from senior Philip Bamberg to highlight the win.

Bamberg scored with one second left in regulation to send the match to overtime, then provided the winning goal on a lob from five meters in sudden death. The nine goals was a career high for Bamberg.

He came back with four goals in the fifth-place game while fellow senior Robert Dunlevie added four. Sophomore goalie Will Runkel had 10 saves after making 15 in the win over Menlo.

Sacred Heart Prep will host St. Francis on Tuesday (7 p.m.) in another WCAL match. The Gators opened their league season last week with a 17-9 win over Serra.

Menlo (5-3) wound up eighth after dropping a 15-14 decision to Soquel in the final round. Nick Hale scored five goals and Keegan Williams had 10 saves in the finale. Williams had 17 saves in the loss to SHP while John Holland-McCowan contributed four goals.

-- Keith Peters

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