Overcoming a one-goal deficit with under five minutes to play, the top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep boys' water polo team advanced to the Central Coast Section Division II championship match with a 16-13 semifinal victory over No. 4 Soquel on Tuesday at Serra High.
The Gators (18-10) will play No. 3 seed Los Altos (20-5) for the title on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose. This will be SHP's seventh straight appearance in the finals. The Eagles upset No. 2 seed and defending champion Menlo School in the other semifinal, 11-8.
Sacred Heart trailed 13-12 in the fourth quarter before junior Zach Churukian tied the match and then scored again for the eventual winning goal. senior Max McKelvey and junior Bret Hinrichs tallied insurance goals after that to close the deal. Michael Holloway scored three times for SHP.
Sophomore Harrison Enright kept the Gators in the match early with six goals while junior goalie Will Runkel came up with 10 saves, despite not feeling well. SHP scored six goals in the final period to avoid the upset. Soquel also pushed the Gators to the limit in last year's semifinals before losing, 12-11.
A rematch of last season's Division II final was wiped out by Los Altos in the second semifinal on Tuesday at Serra, which saw Menlo coach Jack Bowen's march toward a milestone end.
While Bowen will win his 300th game next season after improving his 12-year record with the Knights to 297-76, Menlo could have added as many as two more victories to Bowen's total this season until Tuesday's loss.
The defending champion Knights (17-9), who beat Los Altos in last season's semifinals (18-6), couldn't do it again as Menlo gave up more than 10 goals for only the third time this season. Despite holding a 7-4 halftime lead, the Knights' inexperience -- Menlo lost five of seven starters off its 2010 championship team -- showed in the second half as the Eagles outscored the Knights in the final period, 4-0.
Los Altos grabbed the lead at 9-8 with barely three minutes to play before extending its lead. Menlo seniors Nick Hale and Jack Lucas each tallied three goals and senior goalie Connor Dillon came up with nine saves.
Menlo had reached the finals in 13 of the previous 14 years. Saturday's finale will be only the third time in nine years that SHP and Menlo have not met.
Senior Elizabeth Anderson scored 132 goals this season for Gunn. Only one, however, came in Tuesday night's 15-9 loss to No. 2 Leland in the CCS Division I semifinals at Gunn High.
Anderson, the key to the Titans' offense all season, was held in check by the Chargers. While seniors Missy Barr and Soumya Kannan each came through with three goals each for the No. 3-seeded Titans (21-7), Leland (23-5) rode six unanswered goals into the lead and ended Gunn's season in the semifinals for the second straight year.
"This was obviously not the way we drew it up, and I'm very sad this team won't get to play together again," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "But, Leland deserves all the credit in the world. They played an excellent game. They came out aggressive and were relentless on offense, and remarkably quick on defense.
"On a different night, I know we could have beaten them. But, they did what they had to do and were the better team."
The Menlo-Atherton and St. Francis girls' water polo teams, meanwhile, met the three previous seasons in the CCS Division I finals with all three matches decided by just one goal.
That was not the case in their fourth meeting as the No. 1-seeded Lancers (21-6) handed the No. 4 Bears (14-11) a 9-4 defeat in the section semifinals on Tuesday at Gunn High. The loss ended M-A's streak of four straight appearances in the finals.
M-A grabbed an early 2-0 lead on goals by senior Danielle Flanagan and sophomore Jessica Heilman and senior Marie Popp scored twice after that, but a fifth straight goal by Nikole Ferrari gave the Lancers the lead for good at halftime, 6-4. The Bears were held scoreless in the second half, thus ending the season of their nine seniors. M-A sophomore goalie Sierra Sheeper had nine saves.
2011 CCS BOYS' WATER POLO
Gunn 18, Lynbrook 8
Palo Alto 14, Pioneer 4
Mountain View 16, San Benito 7
Serra 10, Monta Vista 9
Palo Alto 5, Menlo-Atherton 4
Bellarmine 18, Gunn 6
Leland 10, Mountain View 6
St. Francis 16, Serra 6
Semifinals (Wednesday at Serra High)
No. 2 Bellarmine (18-9) vs. No. 6 Palo Alto (17-13), 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 St. Francis (20-5) vs. No. 4 Leland (23-4), 7 p.m.
Valley Christian 10, Willow Glen 4
Mitty 18, Terra Nova 4
Aptos 15, Burlingame 10
Carmel 12, Sobrato 3
Los Altos 17, Valley Christian 7
Menlo School 15, Aptos 2
Soque 13, Mitty 12
Sacred Heart Prep 14, Carmel 8
Semifinals (Tuesday at Serra High)
No. 1 Sacred Heart Prep 16, No. 4 Soquel 13
No. 3 Los Altos 11, No. 2 Menlo School 8
2011 GIRLS' CCS WATER POLO
Pioneer 11, Santa Clara 4
Mitty 20, Sequoia 4
Palo Alto 13, San Benito 11 (OT)
Los Gatos 11, Santa Teresa 7
Gunn 11, Pioneer 4
Leland 12, Palo Alto 6
Menlo-Atherton 16, Mitty 11
St. Francis 8, Los Gatos 4
Semifinals (Tuesday at Gunn High)
No. 1 St. Francis 9, No. 4 Menlo-Atherton 4
No. 2 Leland 15, No. 3 Gunn 9
Valley Christian 11, Sobrato 7
Santa Catalina 8, Santa Cruz 6
Presentation 15, Mercy-Burlingame 6
Soquel 11, Castilleja 8 (OT)
Sacred Heart Prep 18, Santa Catalina 3
Burlingame 18, Soquel 3
Los Altos 12, Valley Christian 3
St. Ignatius 3, Presentation 2
Semifinals (Wednesday at Gunn High)
No. 2 Los Altos (18-7) vs. No. 3 St. Ignatius (17-11), 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 Sacred Heart Prep (22-5) vs. No. 4 Burlingame (14-9), 7 p.m.