PAL title may be a fitting farewell for M-A coach | October 12, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 12, 2012

PAL title may be a fitting farewell for M-A coach

by Keith Peters

Dante Dettamanti has a habit of taking his water polo teams to championships. At Stanford, he won eight NCAA titles over a 25-year span with the Cardinal men. In 2003, he guided the Sacred Heart Prep boys to their first-ever Central Coast Section Division II crown in his only season there.

When Dettamanti took over as the Menlo-Atherton boys' head coach in 2011, there was no such talk of titles. After all, he was just helping out after friend and former coach Marco Palazzo took a job with the U.S. National Team as an assistant coach.

Dettamanti just turned 70 and, even though he said "I still have the enthusiasm," his prep coaching career will end with the Bears after this season.

Thus far, however, it has been a season for the record book.

While there are still a handful of league matches remaining, the Menlo-Atherton boys' water polo team all but wrapped up its first PAL Bay Division championship in 19 years following an 11-10 victory over visiting Menlo School on Wednesday.

"Menlo usually wins the league," said Dettamanti. "This is pretty much the championship game . . . I told (Menlo coach) Jack (Bowen) I might retire after this game!"

The Bears last won the league crown in 1992. Since then, Menlo has won league titles from 1993-2011 — 19 straight years. Bowen, who took over in 2000, was seeking his 13th crown this season.

"I told Jack, 'We have to win it every once in awhile,'" Dettamanti joked. "We can't have Menlo winning it every year."

A Bowen-coached Menlo team last lost to M-A in 2002, when the Bears won both regular-season league meetings but the Knights won the league playoff final, 5-3, and were named PAL champs. The Bears' first win over the Knights that season was (surprise) 11-10 in sudden death and came on October 9.

M-A's coach that season was Ben Quittner, a former assistant of Dettamanti's at Stanford.

Aside from those two losses and Wednesday's match, the only other setback to the Bears was two years ago in the St. Francis tournament. The Knights are 24-4 against the Bears during the Bowen years.

This is Dettamanti's swan song, however, and retirement beckons once again. All the Bears need to do is win their final three PAL matches to make Wednesday's big win stand up.

All the streaks moved closer to coming to an end when M-A grabbed an 11-8 lead when sophomore John Knox scored with 3:21 left in the game. The Bears still held the three-goal margin with 2:00 left to play until Menlo's Nick Bisconti took charge. He made it 11-9 despite having M-A's Harrison Holland-McCowan draped on him, then added another tally with 1:03 remaining — his fifth goal of the match.

Menlo-Atherton missed a scoring opportunity, but grabbed the rebound and called time. The Bears ran off 30 seconds of the final 32, giving the ball back to Menlo for one final shot that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd but missed.

Menlo-Atherton (2-0, 8-7) now has control of the PAL race while Menlo (1-1, 8-6) has to hope for the Bears to be upset in order to share the league crown.

M-A senior Morgan Olson-Fabbro scored six goals and assisted on the eventual winner by Knox, who tallied twice. Olson-Fabbro missed practices last week with a minor case of mononucleosis and still wasn't at full strength. Still, he scored five of the Bears' first six goals while putting M-A on top 3-2 before tying the match at 4, 5 and 6 in addition to giving his team a 9-7 lead in the fourth period.

"We came out thinking we could win this game," Olson-Fabbro said. "We felt we could win it just as easy as we could lose it. It depends on how hard we went and how few mistakes we had."

Evan McClelland scored on a lob for a 10-7 advantage before Menlo senior David Rozenfeld scored with 5:00 remaining for a 10-8 game. Junior goalie Peter Berquist played well for the Bears, blocking a one-on-one situation right in front of the goal in the second quarter to preserve a 4-4 match.

"It was a really well-played games by both teams and I'm very proud of all of the players in our program," said Bowen.

Seven of Menlo's 10 goals came from a sophomore and freshman —Bisconti and Chris Xi. Sophomore goalie Spencer Witte played well while recording nine saves. Senior captain Alexander Carlisle led the team in assist and steals.

In the West Catholic Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep moved into sole possession of first place following an easy 18-1 dunking of visiting Mitty on Wednesday. Former co-leader St. Francis, meanwhile, lost to Bellarmine, 7-6.

The Gators (4-0, 13-3) got three goals each from Scott Jollymour and Zach Churukian while goalie Will Runkel came up with 11 saves. SHP jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead. Bret Hinrichs, Michael Holloway, Nelson Perla-Ward, Alex Swart and Chris Hinrichs all scored twice for SHP, which was coming off a third-place finish in the S & R Sport Tournament in Irvine on Saturday. It was the Gators' best finish ever in the event.

In PAL Ocean Division action, Priory got four goals from Kyle Walden and two from Will Xu in a 19-7 loss to host Hillsdale. The Panthers fell to 0-8 in league. Walden scored eight goals in a 16-13 loss to Mills on Tuesday.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto set the stage for a showdown with first-place Mountain View on Thursday by pulling away from host Los Gatos for a 14-6 victory Tuesday. The Vikings (6-2, 12-4) got six goals from Bret Pinsker and three from Sam Kelley and outscored the Wildcats in the second half, 7-1.

Girls' water polo

Stephanie Flamen scored six goals to pace Castilleja to an 11-8 victory over host Carlmont in PAL Bay Division action Wednesday. The Gators (2-0, 7-4) also got two goals from Anna Yu and Sara Holston while remaining tied for first place.

Also tied for first is Menlo-Atherton, which got four goals each from Jenna Swartz and Jessica Heilman in a 13-1 swamping of visiting Sequoia. Fiona Jackson added three goals and goalie Sierra Sheeper had 12 saves as the Bears improved to 2-0 in the PAL (9-5 overall).

Nicole Zanolli had nine steals for M-A, which came up with 19 for the match.

On Tuesday, the Bears posted a solid 5-1 nonleague win over visiting St. Ignatius as Heilman scored three times and Sheeper had nine saves.

Next up for Menlo-Atherton will be a nonleague home match against Sacred Heart Prep on Saturday at noon. The Gators remained atop the West Catholic Athletic League on Wednesday with a 9-7 overtime win over host Mitty.

"They caught us," said SHP coach Jon Burke, whose team was outscored in the fourth quarter, 2-0, to force overtime. P.J. Bigley, Kate Bocci and Malaika Koshy all scored two goals for the Gators while junior goalie Kelly Moran had 18 saves.

SHP (4-0 in league) will bring an 11-4 overall record into Saturday's match.

On Tuesday, Palo Alto edged host Los Gatos, 6-5, as Tess van Hulsen and Martine LeClerc scored twice and the Vikings' stingy defense proved tough at the end. Paly moved to 5-2 in league (9-7 overall). Tara Lawrence tallied the winning goal.

In PAL Ocean Division action, Kate Huneke scored both goals as host Menlo School held on for a 2-1 victory over Mills. The Knights improved to 6-2 in league (7-5 overall).


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