The Sacred Heart Prep girls turned in perhaps their best effort of the season in girls' water polo as they finished third at the annual NorCal Championships that wrapped up Saturday in Atherton.
The Gators (18-6) went 3-1 in the two-day event, wrapping up the final day with a tough 7-5 loss to top-seeded and eventual champion San Ramon Valley before topping rival St. Francis (Mountain View), 6-5, in the third-place match at the Dunlevie Aquatic Center.
"It was a great weekend for us overall," said SHP coach Jon Burke. "In the semi against SRV, we definitely had our chances, but we struggled against them offensively. It was our third time playing them in the past five weeks, so we have gotten to know them pretty well and we knew what we needed to do to win the game, but still came up a bit short.
"We definitely wanted to win that game but, in the end, playing a competitive match with them and getting that experience so close to the end of the season is valuable in itself."
Despite the loss to San Ramon Valley, SHP's effort was nonetheless impressive as the Wolves came into the tourney unbeaten and left with a sparkling 24-0 record.
SHP forged a 2-2 halftime deadlock with San Ramon Valley, which features junior Kat Klass of the U.S. Youth National Team. The Gators, however, were outscored (2-0) in the third period and that proved to be the difference in the match despite two goals each from SHP seniors Morgan McCracken and Caitlin Stuewe and 11 saves by senior goalie Kelly Moran.
In the match for third place, Sacred Heart Prep avenged two earlier losses to WCAL regular-season champion St. Francis with its big victory. Freshman Maddy Johnston tossed in three goals for SHP, which likely will face the Lancers in this week's WCAL playoffs.
"We played great defense and were able to make some really key defensive stops on 5 on 6," Burke said of the St. Francis match. "We also never gave up. We showed a lot of heart. Despite not scoring the entire first half, we still kept creating scoring opportunities and finally Caitlin got us on the board early in the third. That was all we really needed to get going.
"We scored a few more goals in the third and then kept playing good defense down the stretch. It was a fun game and the girls were really thrilled to end the season with that win. They worked really hard for it."
Menlo-Atherton (15-8) went 1-3 in the tourney and finished 14th following a 6-3 loss to Rio Americano. Gunn (17-7) went 2-2 and finished 10th, posting wins over CCS opponents M-A and Leland.
Palo Alto (21-8) went 3-2 and finished fourth in the Gold Division at Spikefest II at Milpitas High. The Vikings defeated Willow Glen (25-8, 25-18), downed San Benito (23-25, 25-18, 15-11) and swept Saratoga (25-14, 25-15) before falling to Sacred Heart Cathedral (25-14, 27-29, 15-11). In the third-place match, Paly fell to league rival Los Altos (25-14, 25-22).
Paly senior Becca Raffel was instrumental in helping the Vikings finish fourth in the 32-team field. She had 60 kills on the day to go along with 37 digs, and four aces. She had 11 kills in one set against Sacred Heart Cathedral in the semifinals and 20 in that match alone.
Boys water polo
Sacred Heart Prep tuned up for this week's WCAL playoffs with a 10-9 nonleague win over Campolindo at St. Francis High. Junior Will Conner led the Gators (21-3) with four goals while senior Harrison Enright tallied three and junior Nelson Perla-Ward finished with two. Goalie Philippe Marco came up with 14 saves.
In another nonleague test, host Menlo School (20-3) tuned up for the final week of the PAL Bay Division season with a 12-6 win over visiting Serra. Nick Bisconti had five goals and Chris Xi added four while Weston Avery came up with four steals.
2013 GIRLS' NORCAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Hosted by Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo-Atherton
At Sacred Heart Prep
Game 1 -- San Ramon Valley 17, Lodi 1
Game 3 -- Monte Vista (Danville) 9, Clovis 6 (OT)
Game 5 -- Sacred Heart Prep 7, Rio Americano 3
Game 7 -- Clovis West 11, Acalanes 5
Game 9 -- Clovis 16, Lodi 4
Game 11 -- San Ramon Valley 12, Monte Vista 6
Game 13 -- Acalanes 8, Rio Americano 7
Game 15 -- Sacred Heart Prep 12, Clovis West 5
Game 2 -- Campolindo 13, Menlo-Atherton 4
Game 4 -- Miramonte 13, Gunn 7
Game 6 -- St. Francis (MV) 11, St. Francis (Sac.) 1
Game 8 -- Davis 8, Leland 4
Game 10 -- Gunn 8, Menlo-Atherton 5
Game 12 -- Campolindo 17, Miramonte 4
Game 14 -- Leland 6, St. Francis (Sac) 5
Game 16 -- St. Francis (MV) 10, Davis 7
At Sacred Heart Prep
Game 17 -- Clovis West 10, Monte Vista 6
Game 19 -- Davis 10, Miramonte 9
Game 21 -- San Ramon Valley 7, Sacred Heart Prep 5 (semifinal)
Game 23 -- Campolindo 9, St. Francis- MV 4 (semifinals)
Game 25 -- Miramonte 7, Monte Vista 6 (7th place)
Game 27 -- Clovis West 6, Davis 4 (5th place)
Game 29 -- Sacred Heart Prep 6, St. Francis-MV 5 (3rd place)
Game 31 -- San Ramon Valley vs. Campolindo (1st place), 5 p.m.
Game 18 -- Rio Americano 8, Lodi 1
Game 20 -- Menlo-Atherton 6, St. Francis (Sac.) 5
Game 22 -- Clovis 5, Acalanes 4
Game 24 -- Gunn 12, Leland 8
Game 26 -- St. Francis (Sac.) 12, Lodi 4 (15th place)
Game 28 -- Rio Americano 6, Menlo-Atherton 3 (13th place)
Game 30 -- Acalanes vs. Leland (11th place)
Game 32 -- Clovis 7, Gunn 5 (9th place)
1, San Ramon Valley; 2, Campolindo; 3, St. Francis (Mt. View); 4, Sacred Heart Prep; 5, Clovis West; 6, Davis; 7, Miramonte; 8, Clovis; 9, Monte Vista (Danville); 10, Gunn; 11, Leland; 12, Acalanes; 13, Rio Americano; 14, St. Francis (Sacramento); 15, Menlo-Atherton; 16, Lodi