Prep water polo: Castilleja, SH Prep clinch league titles

Claire Pisani scored five goals in Castilleja's 15-10 win over Menlo School on Wednesday. Photo by David Lewis.

To honor the four seniors on the varsity water polo team, several Castilleja students got together to perform a song and dance routine. Perhaps it was a little bit disorganized in the beginning but it all worked out in the end.

Sort of like the Gators' water polo program under Brenda Villa, an Olympic gold medalist and member of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame, who took the reigns several years ago and developed Castilleja into a consistent winner.

Minhee Chung/DL
The Gators beat visiting Menlo School, a program that has also been rejuvenated over the past three years, 15-10 in a showdown of undefeated Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division teams.

With one regular-season league game remaining to play for both teams, Castilleja (14-3, 6-0) clinched its fifth consecutive PAL Bay Division title after never winning a title previously.

Seniors Madison Lewis, Scarlett Ackley, Claire Pisani and Chloe Nicolaou knew what kind of a program Villa was trying to create and helped make it happen.

"A couple of them I've coached since the sixth grade," Villa said. "They've been super and have helped build the culture and created traditions. This group came in and turned the tide."

The only Division V school in the league and one of two all-girl schools, Castilleja had been at a disadvantage when Menlo-Atherton and Menlo School took turns dominating the league.

Villa, along with the dedicated players she attracts, has made it one of the top programs in the Central Coast Section and made the Palo Alto-Atherton-Menlo Park region a hot bed for the sport.

"It's hard to really promote the program being a smaller school," Villa said. "The students here wanted to be at Castilleja. We don't get many who start here in high school so it's great some are still at it."

While several players also participate in the Stanford Water Polo Club program (and Villa coaches a club team in Menlo Park) there's also an understanding that many students use the summer to cultivate other interests.

"Sure, I'd like to see them all play on club teams but what I really want to see is them become the person they want to be," Villa said. "You just work with what you have."

Castilleja was represented by eight players, including then-eighth-graders Gabby Lewis and Abena Ofori-Nyako, on five different age group Stanford Junior Olympics rosters over the summer. Many schools had five players on one roster.

Madison Lewis and Pisani, who were teammates on Stanford's 18A club team, combined to score nine of the Gators' goals against Menlo.

Pisani recorded a hat trick within a four-minute span of the second period and then added a goal in each the third and fourth quarter. Lewis completed her hat trick midway through the third period.

Junior Minhee Chung, one of the most underrated players in the area, also scored three goals, completing the hat trick just after Lewis. Lexi Triantis added two goals and Ackley also scored for the Gators, who host Burlingame next Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Sophie Reynolds, Sydney Bianchi and Alina Hernandez each scored twice for Menlo (10-8, 5-1), which plays at Woodside next Wednesday at 4 p.m. Sophie Golub, Annie Bisconti and Rusha Bhat also scored for Menlo.

The Knights will be playing in their third consecutive CCS tournament after going nearly 10 years between appearances. They reached the title game in Division II last year.

West Catholic Athletic League

Eleanor Facey scored five goals and Sacred Heart Prep topped visiting St. Francis 12-5 Wednesday to clinch the WCAL regular-season title and the No.1 seed into the league tournament.

Madeline Johnson and Annabel Facey each added two goals for the Gators (13-5, 5-0), who head to Clovis West for a pair of nonleague games on Saturday before hosting the NorCal Invitational the following weekend. The WCAL tournament opens Oct. 23.

St. Francis scored the game's first two goals and the game was tied at 4-4 early in the second half before SHP scored four straight to break it open.

Ella Woodhead sparked the rally with a goal at 5:51 of the third period. Eleanor Facey scored two minutes and Annabel Facey scored both her goals with a minute of each other.

Madeline Johnson scored the final two goals of the match. Alexandra Szczerba and Isabella Bachler scored SHP's first two goals to tie it in the first quarter.

The teams combined to go 2 of 13 on power plays.

Boys water polo

In the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division, Woodside downed host Carlmont, 12-6, Wednesday as Andrew Mills scored three times.

Aidan Seed and Joe Untrecht each added two goals for the Wildcats (14-5, 4-1), who host Menlo School (14-4, 5-0) in the regular-season finale next Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a chance to tie for the title and the No. 1 seed into the PAL tournament.

West Catholic Athletic League

Will Riley scored five goals and Sacred Heart Prep completed an undefeated league season with a 14-5 victory over visiting St. Francis on Wednesday.

Andrew Churukian added three goals for the Gators (15-1, 6-0), who are entered in two tournaments before the WCAL tournament opens on Oct. 23. SHP hosts the North vs. South Challenge this weekend and opens Friday against Murrieta Valley at 1:20 p.m.

Menlo is also entered and meets Oaks Christian at 10:05 a.m. at St. Francis.

Berk Aksoy scored the Lancers first three goals and the game was tied until Riley netted a goal with 2:13 left in the first half and the Gators never trailed again.

Luke Weigle and Walker Seymour each added a pair of goals for SHP, which held St. Francis to two goals over the final 18:22 of the contest. Griffen Price recorded eight saves and three steals.

In the PAL Bay, Menlo-Atherton beat visiting Burlingame, 12-6, Wednesday. The Bears (6-10, 4-1) play at Serra on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in a nonleague game.

In a nonleague game, Soquel (15-4) topped host Gunn (2-13), 11-0, Wednesday. The Titans play at Los Altos at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

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