SHP girls reach semifinal of CCS water polo tournament

Senior co-captain Morgan McCracken wants to finish her high school water polo career in the same manner as her first three years -- winning a Central Coast Section title.

McCracken scored four goals in helping Sacred Heart Prep take a step closer. The top-seeded Gators beat Santa Catalina, 16-6, in a quarterfinal match of the CCS Division II girls' tournament at Christopher High in Gilroy on Saturday.

SH Prep (20-7) advances into the semifinal round on Tuesday and will meet Soquel at a site to be determined.

The Knights upset No. 4 Saratoga, 6-3, in the final game of the day.

"What the CCS means is an end to the season and we want to be playing our best," McCracken said. "Every CCS title is important and special because it is a different team every year."

The Gators, who play a high-profile regular-season schedule, hardly take the CCS tournament lightly.

"No matter what, we don't overlook anybody," SHP coach Jon Burke said. "We set up the schedule with the idea of playing our best at the end. It's great to have big regular-season wins but if you're not at your best in the playoffs, the regular season doesn't mean as much."

The Gators took that to heart against Santa Catalina, taking a 13-3 lead into the fourth quarter.

McCracken and Maddie Johnston, who also scored four times, sat out the final period. Malaika Koshy added two goals.

Megan Anderson, Layla Waters and Caitlyn Stuewe also scored for the Gators.

Santa Catalina scored two quick goals to open the fourth quarter, causing Burke to call a timeout to remind his players to stay aggressive.

Camile Zelinger, Lauren Mohrman and Willa Bautista scored in quick succession and helped UCLA-bound goalie Kelly Moran keep the Cougars off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

"When we play against the best competition during the season, it gets us ready for CCS," McCracken said. "But we still have to play well to defend our title."

Moran has a lot in common with her older brother Brian, who plays for the Stanford football team. Not much gets by either of them when it comes to their positions. Brian is an offensive lineman while Kelly blocks a lot of opposing team's scoring threats.

"Two things stand out with Kelly," Burke said. "Her work ethic and commitment. She's usually the first one in the pool and the last to leave."

The Gators are hoping to be the last team standing following next Saturday's final.


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