Championship trophy belongs to more than just team members


When it was over, Menlo School boys water polo coach Jack Bowen took the championship trophy from the Scott Roche Invitational and handed it to a man in the crowd.

The recipient of the trophy was Darcy Roche, the father of the former Menlo player for which the tournament is named.

Menlo defeated San Ramon Valley, 12-8, in the championship game to take the Roche Invitational title for the third time in the last six years and seventh time in the 19-year history of the event.

Scott Roche was a standout player at Menlo who went on to graduate from Princeton, where he captained the team. He died in an automobile accident in Seattle shortly before his 25th birthday.

The Knights (6-0) are off to a start that likely makes anyone associated with the program proud. Bowen thinks it’s shaping up as his best team in several years.

“In recent years we’ve had some very strong players, we have two freshmen starting in college,’’ Bowen said. “This team has some strong players who are playing together and trust each other.’’

San Ramon Valley won the tournament in 2012 and 2013 and has gone 5-3 against Menlo over the last eight years.

The Knights never trailed Saturday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead, saw the Wolves tie it 2-2, then led the rest of the way.

It was 7-5 at halftime. Menlo came out strong to start the third quarter and took control of the match with a 4-0 run to extend its lead to 11-5. Those four goals came from four different players -- Miller Geschke, Scott Little, Sam Untrecht and Niko Bhatia.

SRV scored three unanswered goals to pull within 11-8 at the end of the third quarter. But the Menlo defense, with goalkeeper Tiago Bonchristiano blocking shot after shot, held the Wolves scoreless in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve had some very good goalkeepers,’’ Bowen said, mentioning former Knights who went on to mention players at Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Princeton. “Tiago is in that conversation.’’

Bonchristiano, a native of Brazil, had 16 saves.

Untrecht scored a team-high four goals. Geschke, Bhatia and Jayden Kumwar scored two goals apiece.

"Losing two of our best players, Chris Xi (Princeton) and James Thygesen (Brown) was tough but I think we've transitioned really well and our new starting group is working really well together,” Untrecht said. “I think all the work we put in over the summer is paying off, and it's just a great way to start the season."

In the semifinal, Menlo pulled away with a five-goal third quarter for an 11-5 win over La Jolla. Bhatia poured in six goals and Untrecht added four to pace the Knights. Bonchristiano had 17 saves.

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