A tough schedule only makes SH Prep that much stronger


Brian Kreutzkamp handed the Sacred Heart boys water polo team a tough assignment: an unrelenting schedule against some of the top teams in the nation.

The Gators coach felt good about finishing fourth in the Elite Eight tournament at Harvard-Westlake last weekend and even better after host Sacred Heart Prep beat St. Francis, 17-2, in a West Catholic Athletic League match Wednesday night.

Minhee Chung. Palo Alto Sports Online Photo.
Menlo School took charge of the PAL Bay Division with its 9-5 win over Menlo-Atherton on Wednesday and both Gunn and Palo Alto won SCVAL matches on Tuesday.

"We had a difficult couple of games against the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 team in the team all within 24 hours," Kreutzkamp said. "We came back beaten up but we saw what water polo at its highest level was like. The important thing is how we do in league and CCS."

The Gators (3-0, 6-3) are tied for the league lead with Bellarmine, a perennial power, though it's Sacred Heart Prep which is the five-time defending WCAL champions.

The Gators played like it against the Lancers, scoring 13 unanswered goals at one point in the first half. The offense was spectacularly efficient, netting 12 goals on 14 shots in the first two periods.

"St. Francis was missing their best player," Kreutzkamp said. "But I like the way we responded after the weekend."

Sacred Heart Prep is not finished with those types of weekend. The Gators return to Southern California to take on virtually the same group at Irvine High in a couple of weeks. There's also the North-South Invitational, hosted by Sacred Heart Prep and the Bellarmine Memorial tournament.

"We want to play the best, Kreutzkamp said. "If you don't stay sharp the entire game you can look up and be down by five goals."

The Lancers got a taste of that Wednesday night as the Gators needed all of seven minutes to take a five-goal lead and were up by 13 early in the second half.

Alex Tsotadze led the charge with four goals, while Jackson Enright and J Clevenger each added three. Andrew Churukian and CJ Box each scored twice.

The Gators play at St. Ignatius at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Knights (3-0, 13-0) and Bears (2-1, 7-7) have won every PAL championship beginning in 1993, with Menlo-Atherton winning two of the last four.

Following a tied first quarter, Menlo School made some offensive changes and came out to a 4-0 second quarter. Menlo shut down Menlo Atherton’s power play, of which they had 8, and was able to assert their team defense and counter attack, with both Niko Bhatia and Ben Wagner passing for 3 assists each.

The pair also combined to score five goals and Sam Untrecht added three.

Girls water polo

Sacred Heart Prep goalie Jane Rakow is a relative newcomer to the varsity goalie position. Her task last year was to block shots. Everything else was a bonus.

This time around she's become much more involved with the defense and where to outlet to start the offense.

"Last year, her best game of the year was probably in the CCS finals," Gators' coach Jon Burke said. "This year her focus is even better and she positions herself better."

Rakow made nine saves Wednesday night to help SH Prep beat visiting St. Francis, 9-4, in a nonleague match that showed Burke his team is back on track.

"The game plan worked," Burke said. "St. Francis is a really good team and for us to get this victory is very important."

The Gators (8-4) are the nine-time defending CCS champions, but early struggles (and three one-goal losses) may have had an effect.

The team returned 10 players from last year's run and seem to be coming together for another run at the title.

"Every year is different," Burke said. "We're gaining a lot of confidence and playing better all the way around."

Rakow has been Sacred Heart Prep's most consistent performer to date.

"We were just happy when she stopped shots last year," Burke said. "Now she's adding layers, making subtle reads. She's quiet but is taking more of a leadership role and she's making really good saves."

Maddy Johnston and Maddie Pendolino each scored three times to lead the Gators past St. Francis.

Sacred Heart Prep travels to St. Ignatius for a 3:30 p.m. game Wednesday.

Menlo-Atherton bounced back from a 4-0 halftime deficit to beat visiting Menlo School, 9-8, in a PAL contest.

The Bears (3-0, 6-3) are in control of the PAL race following the victory. The Knights (2-1, 6-8) led 8-3 heading into the fourth period.

Menlo's Sophie Golub, a freshman, collected two goals and two assists while Chloe Ebrahimian, a senior, added two goals and an assist.

Castilleja (2-0, 7-3) topped Woodside, 11-3, in a PAL match Wednesday as Minhee Chung and Sabrina Rivera-Korver each scored three times.

Girls golf

Menlo School girls' golf capped a successful week with a 215-230 win over Castilleja in West Bay Athletic League play at Palo Alto Hills Country Club on Wednesday.

The Knights (6-0), who handed Harker its first loss on Monday, handed Castilleja its first loss on Wednesday.

The players adjusted well after playing in hot weather Monday to breezy conditions Wednesday.

"Both teams played very well under difficult conditions," Menlo coach Jim Miller said. "The course is challenging even without the wind because of the doglegs, the different lies and the undulation in the greens."

Menlo's Sophie Siminoff started with a double bogey, bogey and an eagle. She them lost a ball, took an 8 before finishing strong with three consecutive pars for a 41. She played six holes at 2-under.

"Sophie showed a lot of heart coming back plus she and her teammate Gianna (Inguagiato) really pulled for each other," Miller said.

Inguagiato started out par, par, birdie, and played 6 of the nine holes in 1-under and also finished with a 41. Lauren Yang carded a solid 42, which included a long birdie putt on No. 5. Vikki Xu shot a 43 which included a birdie on No. 2. Sulwen Ma played some nice shots, and posted a 48.

Kendall Weingart played a strong round; she hit a drive about 235 off No 9 into the wind and then, in order to help her teammate Ma finish, she decided to pick up her ball.

Harker (4-1, 4-1) came back from Monday's loss to beat Sacred Heart Prep (1-3, 1-4), which got solid rounds from Lauren von Thaden (36), Caroline Park (36) and Cami Steppe (37).

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