West Catholic Athletic League champions Sacred Heart Prep earned the top seeds in each the Central Coast Section Division II boys and girls water polo championships, which begin Tuesday at various locations.
Peninsula Athletic League champion Menlo School is seeded second in boys Division II and, along with the Gators, has a bye into the quarterfinals.
Santa Clara Valley Athletic League champion Gunn earned the No. 2 seed in boys Division I and has a bye into Saturday's quarterfinal. No. 6 Palo Alto meets No. 3 Menlo-Atherton in another quarterfinal. Bellarmine (18-7) is the top seed.
SCVAL runner-up Gunn earned the No. 4 seed in girls Division I and will meet Mountain View, which the Titans beat in Friday's league semifinal, 5-4, on Saturday. No. 9 Palo Alto opens with Salinas at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Homestead High.
No. 7 Woodside, the PAL runner-up, and No. 8 Menlo-Atherton each received a bye into the second round. Leland (24-3) is the top seed.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys enter the CCS tournament as the five-time section champion and has won nine titles overall.
The Gators (20-6) have won six of their last seven, 10 of 12 and 15 of 18 with a schedule top-heavy of the state's top teams. Menlo's difficulty of schedule is reflected in its lone losses to Mater Dei and Loyola-Los Angeles.
The Knights (25-2) won their first 19 games, lost two in a row, and are on a six-game winning streak. Both teams are undefeated against CCS teams.
SH Prep's JC Marco and Menlo's Tiago Bonchristiano are two of the top goalies in the country, let alone the section. Both are surrounded by outstanding field players.
Alex Tsotadze, Jackson Enright, Larsen Weigle and Andrew Churukian have been the Gators' leading scorers, though several others have played important roles.
Sam Untrecht is Menlo's leading scorer, though Niko Bhatia, Ben Wagner, Scott Little, Miller Geschke and Jayden Kunwar have all had big scoring games.
Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep have combined to win the past 11 CCS Division II titles and usually face each other in the title game. The Knights have won three CCS titles, last winning in 2010.
The Gators play Saturday at a time and place to be determined against the survivor out of a group that includes Burlingame (15-8), Pioneer (16-8) and St. Ignatius (6-18). Menlo also plays Saturday against Harker (16-7), Half Moon Bay (12-13) or Aptos (11-10).
In boys Division I, Gunn (20-7) plays Saturday against a team that will come out of a group that includes Santa Teresa (6-14), Willow Glen (17-7) and Los Gatos (17-10).
The Titans are also a multidimensional team, featuring seniors Quinn Hamilton, Lucas Batista, Patrick Zhao and JP Napaa. Juniors Aaron Babian and Jack Mallery have also been impressive. Senior Jackson Waschura handles goalkeeping duties.
Gunn has won three section titles, the last in 1995.
The Vikings (17-10) lone league losses were to Gunn and they took the Titans to sudden-death overtime in the championship game of the league tournament.
Sophomore Ben Rapperport tends the goal, while seniors Jared Stanley, Thomas Smale, Alex Beaudry, Andrew Jozefov and Eric Maser take care of the field work.
Palo Alto, coached by Aaron Johnson, has won four CCS titles, the last in 1997.
Menlo-Atherton (13-14) is coached by Brandon Johnson. Also indicative of a tough schedule, the Bears are 11-4 against CCS competition, including a win over Gunn, coached by Matt Johnson.
Should the Titans win their first game, a Johnson-coached team is guaranteed to reach the finals at Independence High on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Junior goalie Noah Smith has missed action this season, though M-A remained competitive behind junior Nick Caryotakis, another quality field player in a section that has plenty of them. Junior Ilia Dzotsenidze and seniors Nick Andrew, Davos Paquin and Henry Marks are also among the Bears top players.
Girls water polo
Sacred Heart Prep (17-9) remains the top contender in girls Division II despite its recent loss to St. Francis (19-6), the No. 2 seed in Division I.
The Gators are 9-2 against CCS playoff teams, including a split with Division I top seed Leland and a 2-1 mark against Division II second seed Soquel. They play in Saturday's quarterfinal against an opponent to be determined out of a group that includes Santa Cruz (8-10), Willow Glenn (13-13) and Sobrato (14-8).
SH Prep, winners of nine straight CCS titles, is loaded with experience. Seniors Maddy Johnston, Layla Waters, Jane Rakow, Savannah Kazemipour, Emily Howard and Maddie Pendolino lead the way, while juniors Addi Duvall, Nadia Paquin and Claire Kerrigan add depth in scoring and defense.
Castilleja, coached by Olympic gold medalist Brenda Villa, has reached four CCS championship finals and is still looking for its first title.
Junior goalie Georgia Lewis gives the Gators (17-8) a chance at anybody, although they are a combined 0-3, having been outscored 31-7, against SH Prep and No. 2 seed Soquel (20-5).
Castilleja can surprise, as it did last year in upsetting Soquel after losing the regular season meeting.
Lewis is backed by seniors Serena Rivera-Korver, Kenzie Macdonald and Jenna Kotcher. Sophomores Madison Lewis, Claire Pisani, Jui Steffen and Anike Adzich and freshman Minhee Chung have all been impressive.
Menlo (8-11) owns four CCS championship trophies, though the Knights last qualified in their 2006 title season.
Under first-year coach Alana Burgess, Menlo was in rebuilding mode with lone senior Chloe Ebrahimian overseeing two juniors and 14 underclassmen.
Junior goalie Gillian Bressie and junior Sarah Donato also helped the Knights develop into a competitive team. Freshman Annie Bisconti led the offense.
There's nothing surprising about Gunn (17-10) qualifying for the girls Division I playoffs. The Titans seemed to have rebounded from a mid-season slump to reach the league title match.
Junior goalie Zoe Banks leads a talented group that owns wins over Castilleja and defending champion Los Gatos.
Seniors Mikaela Wayne, Gianna Gencarella, Georgia Hake, Janis Iourovitski and Sylvia Illouz lead a relatively young team into the championships. Sophomores Kayla Lin, Kara Jacobsen and freshman Cooper McKenna are among the significant contributors.
Woodside (13-10) ended the regular season on a high note and may be the surprise of the tournament. The Wildcats are 5-5 against CCS competition and have one of the top goalies around in sophomore Maya Sribivasan.
Seniors Mina Sealund, Nicole Greenberg and Taylor Leier lead Woodside, which plays Thursday against the winner of a game between Homestead and Lincoln.
Annabelle Paris and Julia Sherman lead Menlo-Atherton (14-8), which plays Thursday against either Salinas (17-6) or Palo Alto (12-15).
The Vikings are led by seniors Joanna Falla, Haley Chalmers, Molly Weitzman and Isabel Taggart. Juniors Talia Stanley, Sabrina Hall, Hollie Chiao and Sophie Frick, and freshman Chesnie Cheung also contribute.