After watching San Ramon Valley win the Scott Roche Invitational water polo title for two straight years in Menlo School's own pool, the host Knights figured enough was enough.
In a roller-coaster battle, the Menlo boys held off San Ramon Valley, 11-10, to win their sixth championship -- their first since 2011 -- at the 17th annual tournament on Saturday to end the Wolves' string of titles.
"This is one of the most meaningful games in my career," said Menlo senior captain Nick Bisconti, who led the team with four goals in the title match while tallying 16 as the Knights went 4-0 in the tourney to improve to 6-0 on the season.
Menlo came out early, scoring four quick goals to San Ramon's one behind a strong counter-attack. At the quarter break, San Ramon made changes in its defensive and transition schemes and fought back to take a 6-5 lead at halftime.
But as their lead grew to 10-8 with 3:24 remaining, the Knights ran two timeout plays and ran a counter-attack to seal the victory.
Menlo head coach Jack Bowen mirrored Bisconti's sentiment as he addressed the crowd, which included the family of Scott Roche, who was the team captain when he play at Menlo.
"At our team dinner last night, I again listened to Scott's brother and father talk about what Scott stood for, and then from (dinner host) Greg (Golub), and it's everything that this group of guys here emulates: being your best with a lot of heart and character."
Menlo got goals from five different players, as well as assists from four others -- led by co-captains Andreas Katsis and goalie Spencer Witte with three. Katsis also scored three goals while Witte finished with 13 saves.
It was Menlo's team defense that controlled the tempo of the game, with eight players getting steals. Bowen, a former All-American goalie at Stanford, was especially impressed with Witte's play.
"He's asserted himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Northern California," Bowen said of Witte, who had 45 saves in the final three matches, at least two of which prevented almost sure scoring opportunities for San Ramon late in the game. Menlo outscored the visitors in the final period, 4-1.
Witte had 67 saves in 5 1/2 games for a 12.2 saves-per-game average. He allowed 33 goals (67 percent save percentage) in addition to providing nine assists to go along with eight steals.
In the semifinals on Saturday morning, Menlo topped La Jolla, 12-9. Witte was again tough in the cage with 15 saves while Bisconti led all scorers with six goals. Katsis added three and Tegan Nibbi had two. The Knights held a 7-3 halftime lead and kept the visitors at bay the rest of the way.
In the other semifinal, San Ramon Valley earned its appearance in the finals with a 17-9 romp over Gunn. The Titans went on to fall in the third-place match to La Jolla, 13-9. Menlo-Atherton finished eighth following a 13-10 loss to Sir Francis Drake.
Menlo and San Ramon Valley could meet again this weekend at the annual NCS/CCS Challenge at various pools around the Bay Area.
Menlo opens against Redwood on Friday at Acalanes High and is in the same bracket as SRV. Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep will play their openers at St. Francis, the Vikings facing Las Lomas at 2 p.m. and the Gators taking on Monte Vista (Danville) at 3 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep senior Daniel Hill captured individual honors in the Boys' Varsity race by clocking 15:10 over a 2.93-mile course to win the Lowell Invitational title at Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park on Saturday.
Hill's winning time of 15:10 helped the Gators finish third in the team race with 159 points. Menlo School finished 10th with 291. Freshman Robert Miranda finished 17th overall for the Knights in 15:38.
In the Boys' Varsity 2 race, Palo Alto senior Lucas Matison finished second in 15:03 while Menlo-Atherton took seventh as a team with 203 points.
In the Girls Varsity 2 race, Menlo-Atherton was fourth with 125 points and Palo Alto was fifth with 148. M-A junior Katie Beebe was 12th overall in 18:39 with junior teammate Cat DuPuy 18th in 18:58. Paly was led by junior Bryn Carlson, who ran 19:02 for 19th.
Menlo-Atherton got its first victory of the season, a hard-fought 21-20 nonleague triumph over host Riordan on Saturday in San Francisco. The Bears (1-2) came into the game having scored just 10 points in their first two outings.
Junior quarterback Robbie Beardsley led the Bears by completing nine of 22 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a third. Chase DelRosso caught six passes for 182 yards, including one for 66 yards.
Sophomore Stavro Papadakis rushed 12 times for 45 yards, caught two passes for 52 yards and one TD and was in on 11 tackles. Junior Bryce Rodgers led the defense with 13 tackles with senior Casey Bernaat getting 11 and Jack Gray 10.
The Bears, however, were able to gain only six yards on the ground on 30 attempts.
Palo Alto matched first-place R.L. Stevenson and runner-up Homestead with identical 3-1 records, but the Vikings had to settle for third place at the 8th annual Paly Invitational on Saturday.
The round-robin tourney is based on number of sets won, thus RLS was declared the champion with 47 sets captured. Homestead won 40 and Paly 37.
The Vikings defeated Homestead, 10-8 and Notre Dame-San Jose, 13-6, the first day before beating Aragon, 10-8, and losing to RLS, 14-4, on Saturday.
Victoria Garrick and Sammy Phillips were selected to the all-tournament team while helping Sacred Heart Prep compile a 4-2 record and finish second at the Harbor Invitational on Saturday in Santa Cruz.
The Gators (12-4) went 2-1 in in pool play, losing its final match to Aptos, to reach the Gold Bracket. There, SHP defeated Palo Alto, 10-25, 25-23, 16-14, and downed Notre Dame-Salinas, 25-23, 25-19, before falling to state-ranked and undefeated Pitman of Turlock, 25-14, 25-14, in the title match.
Garrick led the Gators with 77 kills and 72 digs while fellow senior Natalie Marshall provided 72 assists, 20 kills and 38 digs.
Lilika Teu contributed 61 assists and 24 kills and Jorden Schreeder finished with 63 digs.
At the annual Chris Chandler Invitational at Menlo School, Menlo-Atherton (9-1) fell in the title match to Notre Dame-Belmont, 25-19, 25-23, 15-12.
Kirby Knapp had 120 assists and 38 digs for the Bears, who went 4-1 in the tourney. Devin Joos had 49 kills and 46 digs, Leanna Collins produced 51 kills and Ally Ostrow finished with 31 kills.
Castilleja, meanwhile, went 2-3 and moved to 11-10 on the season. Madeline Johnson had 35 kills for the Gators and Sarah Rose had 30. Castilleja defeated Tamalpais and Monterey and lost to Los Gatos, Lincoln (Stockton) and San Mateo.
At the Los Altos/Mountain View Tournament, Gunn got 80 assists from Nicole Brigham as the Titans (8-4) won the Silver Division with a 25-22, 25-15 win over Scotts Valley. Other top Titans included Meghan Mahoney and Jess Dinneen.