Gators take control late to nab 10th straight title


A perfect 10.

The Sacred Heart Prep girls water polo team made it 10 Central Coast Section Division II championships in a row Saturday with a 7-3 win over Soquel at Independence High.

Jane Rakow
“This is really special,’’ SHP coach Jon Burke said. “I’m thrilled to be part of it.’’

This was not one of Burke’s more dominant teams. The Gators finished the season 20-9 and had losses to Soquel and Leland, a couple of top public-school programs that Burke’s better teams would probably have not lost to.

Leland went on to beat St. Francis in overtime to capture the Division I crown.

The Gators wound up beating Soquel three of the four times they met and split two games with Leland.

Overall, it was a bit of a relief to emerge with that 10th consecutive CCS title.

“At times it was nerve-racking,’’ Burke said. “At times it felt like it was more about not losing than about winning, and that’s a tough position to be in. We knew Soquel beat us early in the year and not much was separating the top teams in CCS. It feels great to be ready to go in the final.’’

The Gators held Soquel scoreless in the first half and had a 2-0 lead at halftime on goals by Nadia Paquin and Layla Waters. But Soquel (22-6) got it going in the third quarter and scored three goals in a span of two minutes and 11 seconds to take the lead.

But just when emotion, momentum and control of the match appeared to be departing, SHP found an answer.

Waters scored with 1:28 left in the third quarter to tie it 3-3, and then Maddy Johnston converted a 5-meter penalty shot with 45 seconds left in the quarter to put the Gators back up at 4-3.

“The girls did an amazing job of riding out the Soquel run and sticking with the game plan,’’ Burke said.

The fourth quarter was all Gators. Naquin scored with 4:00 left, Maddie Pendolino with 3:11 to go and Addi Duvall closed out the scoring with 1:11 left.

Goalkeeper Jane Rakow had 15 saves and, except for that 2:11 span in the third quarter, pitched a shutout.

“Probably, not even probably, she turned in the best performance we've ever had from a goalie in the finals,’’ Burke said. “And we’ve had some great goalies. She was absolutely amazing.’’

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3 people like this
Posted by Playoff format
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 13, 2016 at 7:14 am

Clearly the CCS needs a new playoff format when a team can win 10 years in a row. Not very equitable that schools that can recruit atheletes are placed in the same playoffs as those limited to geography. The most absurd example off this is bellarmine's 31 year swim streak. The obvious structure would be to put all private schools in one division and public in another

4 people like this
Posted by WP Dad
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 13, 2016 at 8:57 am

Why are you such a Debbie downer? SHP does not recruit players! Can't say I have ever heard them accused of recruiting before and in fact they act in quite the opposite manner. Good teams are usually evidence of stability in coaching staff combined with a culture created by the whole school. Rarely do you find a successful program that has turnover of its staff every couple of years. Your comments do not take into consideration the students hard work and dedication to their sport and frankly degrades their accomplishments. Both teams played the best competition they could in the state to get themselves ready for the playoffs and excelled in the classroom as evidenced by their CCS Academic awards. I think you owe them an apology but I doubt that will happen!!!

1 person likes this
Posted by teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2016 at 10:19 am

Saying SHP doesn't recruit is disingenuous... they may not "actively" recruit players but the program, yes to there credit, draws players to it from wherever they want. Public schools do not have that capability so you have to admit the playing field is not level. Not taking away from the girls hard work but lets be honest here.

2 people like this
Posted by Playoff format
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 13, 2016 at 12:14 pm

I didn't mean nor did I say anything negative to the girls team. I'm just saying that ccs needs a more equitable playoff structure to allow teams to compete on a level playing field. I'll be happy to share more evidence of this disparity once football is all done.

6 people like this
Posted by WP fan Doug
a resident of Atherton
on Nov 14, 2016 at 6:40 pm

I think it is fair to say the historically best schools attract the better players; but that is why they do play in different leagues such as the West Catholic Athletic League or that Monterey Bay League, which Soquel won. If you divide up CCS, you'll just get arguments over which is "best."

The other hole in the original argument is that the outright best girl's program in NorCal this year was San Ramon Valley - a public school which is a perpetual powerhouse along with it's neighbors Campo and Miramonte. If you follow the sport you'll know it is more the offseason training and consistent coaching that really makes the difference. Soquel is building a great program through quality coaching and involved parents; something which is sometimes difficult at public schools.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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