It's down to the semifinals of the Central Coast Section water polo tournaments and seven local teams are still alive, all battling for berths in Saturday's championship matches at Independence High in San Jose.
First up will be the Division I boys and Division II girls on Tuesday, with the Menlo-Atherton and Gunn boys competing at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose and Castilleja plus Sacred Heart Prep facing foes at Gunn High.
The four top-seeded teams in Division I boys all remain alive. No. 1 Bellarmine will take on No. 4 Menlo-Atherton (16-10) at 5:30 p.m., followed by No. 2 Gunn (18-9) against No. 3 St. Francis (15-11) at 7 p.m.
The Bears remained alive following an 8-4 win over No. 5 Leland on Saturday at M-A. Mostyn Fero tossed in three goals for the Bears with sophomore goalie Noah Smith stopping eight shots. M-A grabbed a 3-1 first-quarter lead and added three more goals in the third to hold off the Chargers (20-7).
Gunn also stayed in the running for its second straight berth in the finals following a 17-8 romp over Serra, also at M-A. Senior Calder Hilde-Jones poured in seven goals for the Titans with fellow senior Christian Znidarsic adding five and Jack Mallery three. An 8-1 first quarter allowed Gunn to cruise from there.
At Gunn, top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (22-5) will take on No. 5 Mitty (17-10) in one semifinal at 7 p.m. Sixth-seeded Castilleja (16-6) will face No. 2 St. Francis (20-7) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
Castilleja pulled off the upset of the quarterfinals a 6-5 four-overtime victory over No. 3 Soquel (20-7) on Saturday at Aptos High. The teams were deadlocked at 5 after regulation, then played three overtime periods before the Gators finally got the winner in the fourth extra period from freshman Claire Pisani. Sophomore goalie Georgia Lewis had 13 saves for Castilleja. Celia Aldrete had two goals while Madison Lewis, Maddie Macdonald, and Serena Rivera-Korver all tallied twice.
Sacred Heart Prep remained alive for a shot at an unprecedented ninth straight section title with a 19-8 romp over No. 8 and host Valley Christian (15-13). The Gators blew it open by grabbing a 10-3 halftime lead. Senior Malaika Koshy exploded for seven goals with junior Layla Waters adding five. Juniors Maddy Johnston and Maddie Pendolino each contributed three goals.
On Wednesday, the Division II boys will be playing in semifinals at Bellarmine Prep. Four-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Sacred Heart Prep (20-7) will face WCAL rival and No. 4 Valley Christian (12-13) at 5:30 p.m. In the second semifinal, No. 2 Menlo School (17-11) will take on No. 3 St. Ignatius (15-11) at 7 p.m.
The Gators jumped out to a 4-0 first-quarter lead and held a 10-0 halftime advantage on the way to a 17-7 romp over host and No. 8 seed Aptos (17-6) on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Senior Finn Banks had three goals to pace the Gators while Andrew Churukian, Luke Rohlen, Jack Hocker, Corey Tanis and Walker Seymour all had two. Junior goalie JC Marco had 16 saves in yet another solid defensive effort as Aptos fired off 43 shots.
Menlo School, meanwhile, put itself in position for a possible third straight appearance in the Division II finals after rolling to an 18-7 victory over No. 7 Carmel (18-10) at Aptos High. Seniors Chris Xi and Wells Costello led the Knights with four goals each. Sophomore Jayden Kunwar added three goals and junior goalie Tiago Bonchristiano had 12 saves through the first three quarters. Freshman Sam Untrecht finished with five steals and Kunwar added four.
Also on Wednesday, No. 5 Palo Alto (16-12) will take on No. 1 Leland (18-9) in a semifinal at Gunn at 7 p.m. The Vikings advanced with a 7-5 victory over 2014 runner-up and No. 4 seed Gunn (14-14) on Saturday at Menlo-Atherton. The Vikings evened their season series with the Titans by jumping off to a 5-2 first-quarter lead. Seniors Katie Francis and Gigi Rojahn each tallied two goals with jsenior Alina Drebin, junior Haley Chalmers and sophomore Sophie Frick all scoring once. Gunn junior Mikaela Wayne tallied three goals to pace the Titans.