Menlo School boys water polo coach Jack Bowen enjoys a challenging nonleague schedule. This year he may have outdone himself.
The Knights opened with a 9-6 victory over visiting St. Francis, last year's Central Coast Section runnerup. They followed with another win Saturday, besting defending North Coast Section champion Campolindo, 12-10, in overtime.
"This start to our season shows a lot of heart," Menlo coach Jack Bowen said. "We were down early to a very strong, very physical team. A lot of teams would have folded and, instead, this group of guys really believed in each other and in our system and came out with a lot of heart. Knowing the character of this team, I'm not surprised by this, but I also don't take it for granted. It's amazingly motivating."
The Knights were down by three in the first quarter before rallying for the victory.
Sophomore Sam Untrecht scored seven goals, many from passes by senior Ben Wagner, who led the team with four assists.
Tiago Bonchristiano came on strong following a tough first quarter, stopping 21 shots for the Knights.
"Tiago solidified himself as one of the top goalies in the country," Bowen said. "Blocking 21 shots in an overtime game against a team of that caliber, and with many of them exceptionally difficult shots: this was really impressive."
Menlo got assists from seven players, steals from six, and Kunwar and Bhatia both led the team in ejections earned with four each as the Knights improved their all-time record against Campolindo to 7-4.
Menlo prepares to host the 18th annual Scott Roche Invitational next weekend at Menlo School and Menlo Atherton High School.
In the win over the Lancers, defender Miller Geschke recorded six steals and Bonchristiano had 13 saves. Niko Bhatia scored three goals.
"This is exactly the kind of game a head coach likes to see," said Jack Bowen, entering his 17th season. "These guys played as a team, they looked out for each other, and they ran the system we've been working on. We have a lot of work to do, but this was a motivating start."
Girls water polo
Sacred Heart looked unbeatable on the first day of the St. Francis Invitational and then got beat twice Saturday to finish fourth.
"It's early but we have high expectations," Gators coach Jon Burke said. "Even on tough days you find optimism. The biggest takeaway is to use it as a wakeup call and to gauge where we are and what we want to do. We can take that lesson."
Sacred Heart Prep fell to Las Lomas, 8-7, in overtime of the consolation match. The Gators took a 7-1 lead into late in the first half, getting three goals from Maddy Johnston and a pair from Layla Waters.
Davis topped Sacred Heart Prep, 8-4, in the semifinals.
The Gators opened with a 15-0 victory over Castilleja, led by Maddie Pendolino with six goals and Johnston with four. Sacred Heart Prep also beat Soquel, 8-5.
Castilleja, coached by Olympic gold medalist Brenda Villa, came back to beat Menlo-Atherton, 8-1, in the second game Friday. Serena Rivera-Korver scored three times and Madison Lewis added two.
The Bears are coached by Stanford grad Kelsy Holshouser, who played for M-A grad John Tanner at Stanford.
"He has his name up on the Wall of Fame at M-A for swimming," Holshouser said. "I see it every day."
Tanner and Cardinal assistant coach Susan Ortwein asked Holshouser to coach for the Stanford Water Polo Club team while she was still competing. She's been coaching ever since.
"I love the sport and I love coaching," she said.
Holshouser also assisted Villa at Castilleja for a while and was the interim coach when Villa took off to train for the 2012 Olympics.
Villa has a new assistant these days, bringing on Jessica Steffens, part of the 2012 gold medal team and a former Stanford player.
Castilleja beat Mitty, 4-3, with Jenna Kotcher scoring twice, and then beat Los Altos, 7-3, taking a shutout into the fourth period. Goalie Georgia Lewis recorded a combined 24 stops and kept opponents from scoring for over 35 consecutive minutes.
Palo Alto lost twice on Friday, 12-1 to Clovis West and 8-6 to St. Francis-Sacramento.
Menlo-Atherton upgraded its schedule following its best season ever, and while the results are mixed, the Bears have been competitive through their first three matches.
The latest was Saturday's four-set loss to visiting Mater Dei, the nation's second-ranked team by MaxPreps. M-A became the first team to take a set from the Monarchs and nearly took the second set in the 20-25, 27-25, 25-22, 25-21 decision.
The Bears are 1-2 heading into Tuesday night's 6:15 p.m. match with visiting Valley Christian, another CCS powerhouse.
M-A took St. Ignatius (7-1), coached by former Palo Alto coach Dave Huan, to five sets before losing late last week.
Menlo School responded from its five-set setback to the Bears by beating host Santa Cruz, 25-8, 25-16, 25-11, on Saturday.
Riley Holland delivered an excellent performance without recording a kill. Instead, she got all 23 of her serves over the net, including a half-dozen aces, and added an even dozen digs.
Other contributors included Ashley Dreyer with nine kills and a .467 hitting percentage; Selina Xu with seven kills and a .538 hitting percentage to go with 11 assists.
Kristin Sellers distributed 21 assists and recorded 11 digs and Jessica Houghton added 11 digs.
The Knights (5-3) travel to Hillsdale (also nicknamed the Knights) for a nonleague contest on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.