Sports

CCS water polo up next after six local teams win playoff titles

 

While more difficult opponents already have been faced during regular-season tournaments, 10 local water polo squads nonetheless will set out this week to cap their 2014 campaigns with Central Coast Section titles.

The five girls teams feature former section champs Palo Alto, Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep while two others, Gunn and Castilleja, have played in title matches.

The five boys teams feature former champs in Palo Alto, Gunn, Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo with all looking to add another title.

A total of six teams are coming off league playoff titles on Saturday -- Gunn, Castilleja and SHP for the girls and Palo Alto, Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo for the boys. All three girls teams earned outright league titles by winning the regular-season and playoff crowns while the SHP boys won outright with Palo Alto and Menlo sharing titles.

The Gunn girls, still looking for that elusive first CCS title, wrapped up a remarkable fourth straight SCVAL De Anza Division playoff title with a 5-2 victory over Los Gatos in the Titans' pool on Saturday as Zoe Banks scored twice and goalie Sam Acker had 14 saves.

"This was an instant classic, and it encapsulated our formula for success: disciplined defense, brilliant goal play, clutch offense, and poise," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "Close tough games against good teams are nothing new to this group, so it was no surprise that the team didn't panic when we trailed at half (2-1). We can't always predict what's going to happen, but the players trust each other, and have faith that we'll figure it out. In the last four championship games, this was by far the toughest test, and we played our best when it mattered most."

Gunn improved to 20-6 and earned the No. 2 seed for the CCS Division I playoffs. The Titans have a bye into Saturday's quarterfinals after beating Los Gatos for a third time this season.

"This is a huge win for our program," said Hernandez. "We graduated five of seven starters from last year's league champs and CCS finalist, including the incredible and inimitable Caroline Anderson. When we came together in August, we had to re-invent the way we did everything; and this group just kept grinding, kept working together, and kept improving. Every championship is wonderful, but this one is probably the sweetest.

In context, of course, this is an important win for our community. We were on a mission, and we knew that we had a chance to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people. So we were very glad and very honored to bring win home for our fans, our families, and our school."

Gunn will be joined in the Division I playoffs by No. 9 seed Menlo-Atherton (11-13) and No. 10 Palo Alto (13-15). Both open play Tuesday in the Vikings' pool, M-A against No. 12 Lynbrook (14-4) at 5:30 p.m., and Palo Alto against No. 11 Woodside (13-14) at 7 p.m.

After the Gunn girls claimed their title, the Palo Alto boys prevented the Gunn boys from winning a second straight outright league title by handing the Titans a 9-8 loss as sophomore Andrew Jozefov scored the go-ahead goal with a little over a minute left. It was his third goal of the match.

"He stepped up big time for us," said Paly coach Brandon Johnson. "It was awesome to see."

Paly (14-13) lost to Gunn twice during the league season, but Johnson said "We changed some of the matchups we had from last time and really worked on being active help defenders. We know how potent their offense is and how many weapons they have. We did a great job of constantly moving on defense and not letting them get comfortable with what they were doing.

"I was very happy with the way we played. We knew we had to be almost perfect to get these guys. It was a great win for us and the program."

Junior Winston Rosati also scored three goals with senior Seth Alston adding two. The Vikings edged Mountain View in the semifinals, 10-9, as seniors Lucas Novak and Ray Zhao scored three goals apiece.

Palo Alto earned the No. 7 seed for the CCS Division I playoffs and will face either No. 10 Los Gatos (19-3) or No. 11 Salinas (21-5) on Thursday in the Vikings' pool.

Gunn (16-10), which got four goals from Ari Wayne in the championship match, was seeded No. 2 for the CCS Division I playoffs and will face No. 5 Leland (19-7) on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Menlo-Atherton (15-12) is the top seed and has a bye into the quarterfinals. The Bears are coming off a 12-10 loss to Menlo School in the Peninsula Athletic League playoffs on Saturday at Burlingame High.

The Knights avenged an overtime loss to the Bears in their PAL Bay Division matchup, but earned a share of the league title as junior Chris Xi scored five goals, Andreas Katsis tallied four and fellow senior Nick Bisconti finished with three. Senior goalie Spencer Witte had 10 saves for Menlo.

Menlo came out in the first quarter with its signature team-style defense and counter-attack running efficiently. Senior Weston Avery led the team on defense with four steals while Witte was solid in the cage with three assists.

"That's vintage Spencer," said Menlo coach, Jack Bowen. "He makes a tremendous save, controls the shot, and then hits a player on the fly with a perfect pass for a goal."

Earlier this week, Witte was named the league's Most Valuable Goalie while Bisconti was named the league's MVP.

"This game means a lot for us for a few reasons," said Bisconti. "Primarily, our goal is to be our best every game, no matter the situation -- whether it's a scrimmage or a league tournament championship like this one. And, we accomplished that goal tonight.

"Secondly, it's really important for us to be playing well going into CCS, carrying that momentum into the postseason play. And, lastly, this was the final league game of our career."

Bisconti is one of 11 seniors on Menlo's team.

"We really wanted to finish with a win over our league rival, break that tie between us this season, and walk away with a gold medal."

Menlo (21-6) is the No. 2 seed in Division II and has a bye into the quarterfinals on Saturday. The top-seeded team is defending champ Sacred Heart Prep (22-4), which beat the Knights in last year's championship match. The two are expected to meet in the finals again when all four CCS title matches are held on Nov. 22 at Independence High in San Jose.

The Gators are coming off a 10-8 win over St. Francis in the West Catholic Athletic League playoff finals on Saturday at Bellarmine Prep. SHP was tied at halftime, 4-4, and trailed by 6-5 going into the fourth quarter. Junior Finn Banks and senior Nelson Perla-Ward each scored three goals for SHP, which will be seeking the eight CCS title in program history.

The SHP girls also will be seeking an eighth section crown after winning the past seven straight. They, too, wrapped up the WCAL championship by rallying to beat St. Francis, 10-7. The Gators fell behind at the half, 6-4, but grabbed an 8-7 lead heading into the final period. Junior Malaika Koshy tallied four goals and sophomore Layla Waters added two.

Sacred Heart Prep (20-6) is the top seed once again for the CCS Division II playoffs and has a bye into Saturday's quarterfinals. Also opening Saturday will be No. 3 seed Castilleja (18-5), which is coming off its first-ever PAL playoff championship effort, 8-7 over Carlmont at Burlingame High.

Alex Zafran scored three goals for the Gators with Fernanda Kramer and Serena Rivera-Korver adding two each. Goalie Maddie Tarr had eight saves for Castilleja, which didn't pull away until the fourth quarter.

2014 CCS BOYS WATER POLO PLAYOFFS

DIVISION I

Tuesday's first round

No. 11 Salinas (21-5) vs. No. 10 Los Gatos (19-3) at Los Gatos, 5:30 p.m.

No. 12 Wilcox (16-5) vs. No. 9 Monta Vista (13-9) at Los Gatos, 7 p.m.

Thursday's second round

Salinas or Los Gatos at No. 7 Palo Alto (14-13)

Wilcox or Monta Vista at No. 8 Mountain View (16-10)

Saturday's quarterfinals

No. 6 Serra (16-12) vs. No. 3 Bellarmine (14-13)

Salinas, Los Gatos or Palo Alto vs. No. 2 St. Francis (15-10)

No. 5 Leland (19-7) vs. No. 4 Gunn (16-10)

Wilcox, Monta Vista or Mountain View vs. No. 1 Menlo-Atherton (15-12)

-

DIVISION II

Tuesday's first round

No. 11 Sobrato (5-11) vs. No. 10 Burlingame (11-10) at Mountain View, 5:30 p.m.

No. 12 Mills (5-6-1) vs. No. 9 Pioneer (17-9) at Mountain View, 7 p.m.

No. 13 R.L. Stevenson (18-4) vs. No. 8 Willow Glen (14-10) at Aptos, 4 p.m.

Thursday's second round

Sobrato or Burlingame vs. No. 7 Santa Cruz (13-13) at Aptos

Mills or Pioneer vs. R.L. Stevenson or Willow Glen at Mountain View

Saturday's quarterfinals

No. 6 Valley Christian vs. No. 3 Soquel (18-7)

Sobrato, Burlingame or Santa Cruz vs. No. 2 Menlo School (21-6)

No. 5 Carmel (17-9) vs. No. 4 St. Ignatius (14-8)

Mills, Pioneer, RLS or Willow Glen vs. No. 1 Sacred Heart Prep (22-4)

-

2014 CCS GIRLS WATER POLO PLAYOFFS

DIVISION I

Tuesday's first round

No. 12 Lynbrook (14-4) vs. No. 9 Menlo-Atherton (11-13) at Palo Alto, 5:30 p.m.

No. 11 Woodside (13-14) at No. 10 Palo Alto (13-15), 7 p.m.

Thursday's second round

Woodside or Palo Alto vs. No. 7 Carlmont (12-7) at Palo Alto

Lynbrook or Menlo-Atherton vs. No. 8 San Benito (21-5) at Aptos

Saturday's quarterfinals

No. 6 Los Altos (10-13) vs. No. 3 Leland (14-12)

Woodside, Palo Alto or Carlmont vs. No. 2 Gunn (19-6)

No. 5 Los Gatos (23-5) vs. No. 4 Mitty (18-5)

Lynbrook, M-A or San Benito vs. No. 1 St. Francis (18-8)

-

DIVISION II

Tuesday's first round

No. 12 R.L. Stevenson (12-7) vs. No. 9 Saratoga (10-13) at Aptos, 5:30 p.m.

No. 11 Santa Catalina (8-9) vs. No. 10 Valley Christian (9-15) at Aptos, 7 p.m.

Thursday's second round

Santa Catalina or Valley Christian vs. No. 7 Sobrato at Aptos

R.L. Stevenson or Saratoga vs. No. 8 St. Ignatius (12-10) at Mountain View

Saturday's quarterfinals

No. 6 Pioneer (17-9) vs. No. 3 Castilleja (18-5)

Santa Catalina, Valley Christian or Sobrato vs. No. 2 Soquel (22-3)

No. 5 Willow Glen (12-6) vs. No. 4 Presentation (16-10)

RLS, Saratoga or St. Ignatius vs. Sacred Heart Prep (20-6)

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Fan
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 10, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Once again, SHP and Menlo boys teams find a way to get it done.

DII looks like the real championship of CCS this time around. Though the DI bracket looks to be much more interesting with it all being a bit more up for grabs. Can't make the games but will be interesting to follow here.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:27 am

IMHO, it's too bad that St. Francis and SHP are not in the same division. SHP had to come from behind to beat SF last Saturday.


1 person likes this
Posted by Polo Guy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:50 am

But St Francis already lost to SHP twice and lost to Menlo by 2. Why would we want them to play again?? They're 0-3, regardless of them losing in the first quarter or the 4th. SHP v Menlo is the better match up. They've each beaten all the other top teams in CCS but somehow haven't played each other.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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