Castilleja water polo gears up for stretch run in PAL

Castilleja's Elizabeth Ledwith scored once and made a steal. Photo by David Lewis.

Kelsey Holshouser got her first chance as the head coach of Castilleja's water polo team at Woodside last Thursday. The game was never played.

With coach Brenda Villa on maturity leave (her son, Mateo, was born last Monday) the rest of the season, Holshouser was set to make a seamless transition.

Olivia French/David Lewis
The Wildcats were hit by illness and were unable to field a full team, though, and were forced to forfeit the varsity game.

"They were very nice about it," Castilleja's co-captain Lexi Triantis said after the Gators beat visiting Half Moon Bay 13-5 in a Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division game on Monday. "It was a little awkward. We had been warming up during the JV game and it was a little weird that they weren't getting in to warm up. We just assumed they were warming up outside somewhere. I think it was their team captain who came over to tell us. She was sorry about it. We just shot around and then got out."

Holshouser, who played at Stanford and graduated in 2010, got her first official coaching victory against the Cougars. She's known Villa for 11 years.

"We focus on fundamentals and conditioning,"Holshouser said. "Games are the chance to show that."

Minhee Chung scored five goals to lead the Gators against HMB. Georgia Hutchinson and Lauren Speiser each added a pair. Elsa McElhinney recorded three assists and Anjali Kambham made three steals. Gabby Lewis had two assists and two steals while Chung made two steals and recorded an assist.

With Menlo School no longer in the league, the PAL went to a double round-robin but it also meant the loss of one of Castilleja's key rivals.

"Menlo was one of our top competitors," Triantis said. "It was always fun playing them. A bunch of their players are teammates in club. It's sad they are not in the league any longer."

The Gators (11-4, 8-0) did play the Knights, in the Amanda MacDonald Tournament last month, beating them 11-8.

Half Moon Bay gave Castilleja its best game in league play to date, closing to within 7-4 early in the third period.

The Gators are averaging a margin of victory of 13.7 goals in league games. In its losses, Castilleja gets beat by an average of 4.8 goals, 3.0 if the 17-5 setback to Acalanes, arguably the best girls team in the nation, is removed.

Castilleja and St. Francis Mountain View have played twice, the latest an 8-7 overtime win for the Lancers. The Gators have also lost to St. Francis Sacramento and Arroyo Grande by a combined four goals.

All five losses have been to teams with winning records (a combined 47-10) and which were in first place in their respective leagues as of Saturday.

"When it comes to league I think it's fun to play each team twice," Holshouser said. "It's fun to see the improvement."

Castilleja hosts Menlo-Atherton (6-1 in the PAL) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a contest that will, most likely, determine the champion. The Gators, who have won four straight titles, beat the Bears 16-7 in their previous meeting.

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