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October 05, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A magic weekend in polo A magic weekend in polo (October 05, 2005)

SHP girls win NorCal tourney; Menlo, M-A boys also win titles

by Keith Peters

Sacred Heart Prep girls' water polo coach Ed Samuels said it best: "We had some magic this weekend."

Samuels, of course, was talking about his own team, which captured the championship of the inaugural Northern California Champions Tournament at UC Davis on Saturday.

Samuels also could have been talking about the Menlo School boys, who won the St. Francis Invitational crown or the Menlo-Atherton boys, who won their division at the Sixer Invitational at Independence High.

Three tournament titles by three local teams in the same weekend. Yes, the magic was there.

"This was THE tournament," Samuels said of the NorCal event. "If Menlo had been there, we would have had the top 12 teams in Northern California."

Still, 11 of 12 isn't bad. Nor is beating the No. 1, 2 and 4 seeds, which Sacred Heart did during a 5-0 weekend. Coupled with two victories in West Catholic Athletic League play last week, the Gators went 7-0 in five days and improved to 14-1 overall.

"We really pulled it together," Samuels said. "This was our goal, what I told the girls in February.

"There were some very powerful teams there."

The Gators, seeded fifth, toppled undefeated and No. 2-seeded St. Francis (Sacramento) in the title match, 8-2. Earlier, SHP defeated No. 1 Rio Americano in the semifinals, 9-4, and No. 4 San Ramon Valley in the quarterfinals, 10-4.

Sacred Heart Prep outscored its opposition, 50-17, in the five matches and spread the scoring among 10 different players. A blistering counterattack proved to be the difference in the Gators' title march.

"The other teams didn't have a dominant hole set, and that allowed us to get out and run," Samuels explained. "That's the strength of our game . . . Transition is water polo."

Like a fastbreaking basketball team that rebounds and gets the ball on the wing quickly, Sacred Heart Prep was able to do the same

"Transition goals are very high-percentage," Samuels said. "We were very successful in transition. Almost every time the ball was turned over, we had someone open."

Senior Melissa Mordell and junior Adriana Vogt each scored twice against St. Francis (Sacramento) in the finals. The Gators held a 6-1 lead at halftime in both the finals and semifinals. Sophomore Pallavi Menon led the way against Rio Americano with four goals with Mordell and Vogt adding two apiece.

On pool play on Friday, Sacred Heart opened with an 8-3 win over Palo Alto, routed Drake, 15-4, and beat a San Ramon Valley team that some ranked as the No. 1 team in Northern California.

On Thursday, SHP romped past St. Francis (Mountain View) in WCAL play, 16-9, as senior Christie Clark scored a career-high six goals.

Menlo-Atherton (9-5) was seeded 10th in the NorCal tourney and finished in that spot after a 2-3 finish. The Bears lost to No. 2 St. Francis (Sacramento), 9-4; to No. 7 Johansen (Modesto), 9-6; and No. 9 Campolindo, 10-7. M-A topped Carondelet, 10-7, and beat Monte Vista (Danville), 10-4, as senior Kelly Eaton scored 12 goals in the two wins.

Palo Alto (12-7) also was 2-3 in the 16-team tournament, with a 6-2 win over Monte Vista (Danville) and a 9-3 triumph over Drake. Tanya Wilcox led the Vikings with nine goals while Phoebe Champion added eight.

Boys water polo

Menlo (16-2) defended its title in the St. Francis Invitational and won for the third time since 2001 with a 9-7 win over the host Lancers in the finale. The Knights knocked off De La Salle in the semifinals, 9-4.

Junior Ben Hohl scored seven goals in those two wins and 13 for the tourney. Junior goalie Mike Merlone had 17 saves on Saturday while senior Travis Read scored six goals, had eight assists and a team-high 14 steals in the four wins.

Seniors Matt Hudnall and Deitrich Graumann both scored in the win over St. Francis, with Graumann's the game-winner. Senior Matt Wilson added an insurance goal and played solid defense along with senior Kyle Hudson.

"We're done with Phase 1, and that's playing as many games against the hardest teams you can find," said Menlo coach Jack Bowen. "We know where we stand now. I just wanted them to be exposed to the best of the best."

The Knights now head into Phase 2, which is the PAL Bay Division season that starts this week. The key matchup during the league season will be Menlo at Menlo-Atherton on Oct. 26.

The Bears (6-2) are vastly improved over last season, proving that by winning their division at Independence during the weekend. M-A went 4-0, beating Salinas in the finals, 7-5. Junior Stephen Hicks scored 14 goals for the Bears, who outscored the opposition by 49-11.

Sacred Heart Prep (12-3), meanwhile, returns to WCAL play this week after going 3-1 and finishing third in the St. Francis tourney following an 8-6 win over De La Salle behind sophomore Paul Rudolph's three goals and Alex Dunlevie's fine goalie play.

Cross country

Less than a week after running a personal best at the Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto junior Renata Cummins raced to an individual victory at the annual Central Park Invitational in Santa Clara.

Cummins clocked 13:46.6 over the 2.3-mile course to lead the Vikings to the team title. Paly edged Gunn, 62-67, as Alicia Ivanhoe (seventh) and Katie Gosling (ninth) joined Cummins in the top 10.

In the boys' division, Gunn scored 83 points to finish second, putting five runners in the top 22.

Boys soccer

Sacred Heart Prep (6-1-1, 8-4-1) bounced back from its first loss of the Private Schools Athletic League season to beat Harker, 2-1, Saturday in Atherton. Junior Mike Sember scored both goals for the Gators, who suffered a 3-2 loss to visiting King's Academy on Friday.

Girls volleyball

Menlo-Atherton (10-13) came up with one of its better performances of the season while reaching the semifinals of the Gold Division in the annual M-A Midway Classic on Saturday.

The Bears were among the top four teams in the 28-team event, which included Castilleja (17-4), Palo Alto (12-6) and Sacred Heart Prep (17-8).

"I was very proud of M-A's play," said Bears' coach Phil Coyle. "We are playing bettere together and much more consistently, which was our early season trouble."

M-A senior Lori Maumasi and Lea Engelhardt were named to the all-tournament team. Maumasi led the Bears with 23 kills and 30 assists. M-A's Ann Sbardellati was an honorable mention selection.

Castilleja came into the tourney on a roll, but ran out of gas and wound up losing to eventual runnerup Los Altos in the quarterfinals, 27-25, 25-15.

"We were beaten by Los Altos for two reasons," said Castilleja coach Tracie Hubbard. "They were pumped up to play us and decided to dig everything. Second, my girls were physically tired and just couldn't make the plays they needed to when it counted. You can bet our practices these next couple of weeks are going to pick up in intensity . . . We should have been in the finals. But, as we found out, if you can't move on the court due to fatigue, lesser teams will beat you."

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