The final big test before the Central Coast Section playoffs next month will arrive this week for the Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo School boys' water polo teams, which will compete in the fifth annual North-South Challenge at the Sacred Heart Prep and Palo Alto High pools.
Defending champion El Toro will be on hand but is only the third-ranked team from Orange County entered this weekend. Mater Dei is the No. 1 squad from Orange County while Los Alamitos is No. 2. Villa Park, which won this tourney in 2008, is ranked 10 in the OC.
The tourney brings together eight top teams from Northern and Southern California. Other NorCal teams entered include Acalanes, the No. 1 team from the East Bay, plus Los Altos and Davis. Palo Alto also is entered, replacing Menlo-Atherton.
For SHP and Menlo, which met in last season's CCS Division II finale (with the Gators winning), this weekend will provide the best competition prior to the section playoffs. SHP finished fifth last season in this event with Menlo taking 10th.
Sacred Heart Prep (10-5) will host The Bishop's School in Friday's opening round at 12:40. At the same time, Menlo (11-4) will take on Murrieta Valley at Palo Alto High. The host Vikings (6-9) will host Loyola (Los Angeles) at 1:45 p.m.
Semifinals will be played Saturday at Sacred Heart Prep, at 11:20 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., with the championship match set for 5:20 p.m., in the Gators' pool.
Menlo tuned up for the big weekend with an 18-4 rout of visiting Woodside in a PAL Bay Division match on Wednesday. Senior John Holland-McCowan poured in four goals for the Knights (4-0), which grabbed a 10-0 lead after just one quarter. Nick Hale and Brad Haaland added three goals apiece.
In another PAL Bay Division match, Menlo-Atherton (3-1, 12-7) rolled to a 20-4 victory over host Sequoia. The Bears jumped out to a 6-1 lead after the first quarter and pulled away the rest of the contest. Nine players scored for M-A, led by junior Max Wilder and sophomore Morgan Olson-Fabbro with four goals each. Nick Henze and sophomore Harrison Holland-McCowan each had four steals.
M-A coach Marco Palazzo had his second team in much of the match, but the Bears still dominated. Junior goalkeeper Alex Gow was his usual stingy self, deflecting nine Cherokee attempts.
Girls' water polo
Menlo-Atherton (4-0, 11-6) clinched no worse than a tie for the PAL Bay Division championship with a 10-7 triumph over host Sequoia on Wednesday. MJ O'Neill tallied three goals for the Bears while Marie Popp and Katherine Liang added two goals each.
Menlo-Atherton will keep tuning up for the postseason when it visits St. Francis on Friday (4:30 p.m.) before hosting Sacred Heart Prep (16-1) on Saturday at 11 a.m.
In another league match, Castilleja (3-1, 12-7) kept pace with an 11-0 dunking of visiting Burlingame. Natasha von Kaeppler and Grace Arnold each tallied three goals for the Gators while Megan Costello and Sayeh Bozorghadad added two each. Goalie Sallie Walecka had nine saves for Castilleja, which was coming off a third-place finish at the annual Western States invitational last weekend in Modesto.
Costello had five goals in the third-place match, an 11-4 victory over Carondelet. The Gators' only loss came in the semifinals, a 5-4 loss to Las Lomas (Walnut Creek). Costello had two goals in that match and helped the Gators finish 4-1 with 11 goals. Barbara Peterson led Castilleja with 12 goals while von Kaeppler also scored 11.
In another PAL Bay Division match Wednesday, host Menlo School (2-2, 7-11) rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to pull out a 9-5 victory over Aragon. Sophomore Hannah Rubin led the Knights with four goals while senior captain Hailey Smith had five assists and one goal. Ilana Crankshaw added two goals while goalie Lindsay Montgomery came up with eight saves.
After Aragon scored its two goals in the first minute of the game, Menlo tightened its defense and blanked the Dons for the next 13 minutes.
At Sacred Heart Prep
Game 1 -- Mater Dei vs. Davis, 10:30 a.m.
Game 3 -- Acalanes vs. Dos Pueblos, 11:35 a.m.
Game 5 -- Sacred Heart Prep vs. Bishop's School, 12:40 p.m.
Game 7 -- St. Francis vs. Villa Park, 12:40 p.m.
Game 9 -- Loser 1 vs. loser 3, 2:50 p.m.
Game 11 -- Winner 1 vs. winner 3, 3:55 p.m.
Game 13 -- Loser 5 vs. loser 7, 5 p.m.
Game 15 -- Winner 5 vs. winner 7, 6:05 p.m.
At Palo Alto High
Game 2 -- Miramonte vs. Los Alamitos, 10:30 a.m.
Game 4 -- El Toro vs. Los Altos, 11:35 a.m.
Game 6 -- Murietta Valley vs. Menlo School, 12:40 p.m.
Game 8 -- Loyola vs. Palo Alto, 1:45 p.m.
Game 10 -- Loser 2 vs. loser 4, 2:50 p.m.
Game 12 -- Winner 2 vs. winner 4, 3:55 p.m.
Game 14 -- Loser 6 vs. loser 8, 5 p.m.
Game 16 -- Winner 6 vs. winner 8, 6:05 p.m.
At Sacred Heart Prep
Game 17 -- Loser 11 vs. loser 15, 9 a.m.
Game 19 -- Loser 12 vs. loser 16, 10:10 a.m.
Game 21 -- Winner 11 vs. winner 15 (semifinals), 11:20 a.m.
Game 23 -- Winner 12 vs. winner 16 (semifinals), 12:30 p.m.
Game 25 -- Loser 17 vs. loser 19 (7th place), 1:40 p.m.
Game 27 -- Winner 17 vs. winner 19 (5th place), 2:50 p.m.
Game 29 -- Loser 21 vs. loser 23 (3rd place), 4 p.m.
Game 31 -- Winner 21 vs. winner 23 (championship), 5:20 p.m.
At Palo Alto High
Game 18 -- Loser 10 vs. loser 14, 8 a.m.
Game 20 -- Loser 9 vs. loser 13, 9:10 a.m.
Game 22 -- Winner 10 vs. winner 14, 10:20 a.m.
Game 24 -- Winner 9 vs. winner 13, 11:30 a.m.
Game 26 -- Loser 18 vs. loser 20 (15th place), 12:40 p.m.
Game 28 -- Winner 18 vs. winner 20 (13th place), 1:50 p.m.
Game 30 -- Loser 22 vs. loser 24 (11th place), 3 p.m.
Game 32 -- Winner 22 vs. winner 24 (9th place), 4:10 p.m.
2009 -- El Toro
2008 -- Villa Park
2007 -- Miramonte
2006 -- El Toro