Sports

Defense does it for Menlo in big water polo win

Knights take control of PAL Bay Division race by shutting down M-A, 5-1

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Nick Hale and Jack Finch didn't do any scoring for the Menlo School boys' water polo team Wednesday and, quite frankly, senior goalkeeper Keegan Williams doesn't care if they ever score another goal this season.

They are just as valuable, says Williams, when they're making his life a little more comfortable.

Williams may be a little selfish about all the defense Hale and Finch provide in front of him but when they are successfully keeping the ball away from Williams, it's the Knights who prosper.

Everything went according to plan in Menlo's 5-1 PAL Bay Division victory over host Menlo-Atherton, settling the issue of who's best in Atherton and, possibly, the league's best.

There's still more than half the league schedule to be played but it won't be much of a surprise should Menlo (2-0, 8-4) and Menlo-Atherton (1-1, 9-7) finish the season first and second, respectively.

Williams was working on a shutout well into the final period before Jake Bercow finally wiped the zero off the scoreboard with an unexpected shot from long range.

The Bears had another chance to score when they awarded a penalty shot in the late going. Williams blocked that five-meter attempt to put the exclamation point on the defensive stand.

"You don't hold M-A to one goal without a good goalie," Menlo coach Jack Bowen said. "But you do have to give a lot of credit to guys like Hale (four steals, two blocks) and Finch, Brad Haaland, Jack Lucas and John Holland-McCowan. To watch all those guys going at it, that allows Keegan to step up and make blocks."

Williams seconded his coach's critique.

"It means I have less to do," he said. "When they are taking care of everything in front of me, I can focus on blocking."

Menlo-Atherton junior goalie Alex Gow made things difficult for Menlo at the other end of the pool. Scoring was at a premium all day.

"The goalies were the best players in the pool," M-A coach Marco Palazzo said. "The way we shot the ball, we weren't sharp. That was not the way to play a game of this magnitude. When you have a system and are organized, you get results."

Wade Avery led Menlo with three goals. Holland-McCowan and Kyle Bowman also scored.

In the West Catholic Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep (3-1, 7-2) remained a game behind first-place St. Francis with a 19-8 dunking of host Valley Christian (San Jose). Seniors Philip Bamberg (seven goals) and Robert Dunlevie (five) took care of the host team by themselves while sophomore goalie Will Runkel was a standout defensively with a season-high 17 saves.

The Gators will be in Irvine this weekend for the annual S & R Sports Tournament, which brings together many of the state's top teams. Many of those same squads will be at the SHP and M-A pools on Oct. 22-23 for the annual North-South Challenge tournament.

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